Fraud in the church is a growing epidemic. Every week, it's astounding to see five to ten Google Alerts generated by the keywords "church" and "embezzlement."
Sadly, that sounds low. As many church administrators know, these alerts represent the ones that make the news, so the actual numbers may be higher. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners says 9.6 percent of nonprofit organizations (2.3 percent of which are religious) reported fraud incidents in 2010. But it's not unusual for cases—suspected or real—at churches to go unreported, either because they're undetected or because the church decides to address the situation internally and not involve authorities.
The ACFE says the median loss for nonprofits was $90,000, and for religious organizations it was $75,000. For a church budget, that's a huge loss—it means something else in the ministry won't be possible.
Yet the threat continues to fly under the radar of most churches. It's similar to what we saw 15 years ago with child abuse prevention. Many churches don't want to touch the subject because leaders don't believe it's something that could happen within their congregation. Not only do we continue to see it happen, but the tools and tactics used to make it happen continue to expand.