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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Crime shredders

People entering the front door of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Denver, might be coming for worship or one of its many outreach ministries. Or they might be coming to use the shredder.

The congregation is one of 170 in the Denver area that works with the Clergy Against Senior Exploitation partnership funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant. The program trains clergy and lay leaders to recognize and prevent fraud, especially against the elderly.

Using a shredder, for example, is a simple but effective way to prevent identity theft, among the most common forms of fraud, says Lisa Curtis, director of the partnership.

"Dumpster divers" sift through trash looking for bank statements, expired health-insurance cards and documents with Social Security numbers. Thieves use these to set up phony checking and credit-card accounts and cell-phone services.

Kevin Maly, pastor of St. Paul, said he "was stunned at what he didn't know about fraud," as were many of the older adults who attended a seminar at the church. "People in faith communities tend to be people of good will and can be easy marks," he said. Maly has since discovered that a St. Paul parishioner was defrauded by her financial adviser.

Curtis said fraud that commonly targets the elderly involves telemarketing, mail and Internet, home improvement and inspection, security and investment, and caregivers.


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