$600,000 Stolen from Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church Offering
An estimated $600,000 was stolen from Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church this weekend in Houston.
According to a statement sent to church members, someone allegedly stole cash, checks, and credit card information from the church safe, reported the Houston Chronicle, one of the first of many media outlets to cover the story.
Church leaders urged members who had given over the weekend to closely monitor their accounts for fraud.
"The funds were fully insured, and we are working with our insurance company to restore the stolen funds to the church," Lakewood's statement read (full text below).
CT's previously reporting on theft includes the rash of church metal thefts, including how such theft decreased by 60 percent in the United Kingdom thanks to "voice of God" alarms. CT also reported how fraudbuster Barry Minkow was convicted of stealing $3 million from his own church, how Jesus' name exposes Christians to identity theft, and how a departing diocese sued the Episcopal Church for identity protection.
CT also reported how theft and fraud in Christian circles was rising at a rate of 5.9 percent annually in 2011, including a YWAM leader who swindled millions from friends, family, and missionaries. In addition, CT explored why it might be a good idea not to trust your pastor/mortgage officer because of church-based affinity fraud.
We were heartbroken to learn today that funds were stolen from the church over the weekend. This includes cash, checks and envelopes containing written credit card information, and it is limited only to those funds contributed in the church services on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9, 2014. If you made a contribution during these weekend services, we would encourage you to pay close attention to your accounts over the next several days and weeks and report any suspicious activity to your financial institution or credit card company immediately.
It is important to note this was not an electronic data breach, but was instead limited to donations made in the services on March 8 and 9, 2014. You were not affected if you put your offering in a drop box, you gave online or through other electronic means, or you made a bookstore purchase. We are working with the police to fully investigate the incident. The funds were fully insured, and we are working with our insurance company to restore the stolen funds to the church.
If you have any questions about this matter, please contact our Customer Service Department at 713-491-1506. The integrity of our congregants' information is of utmost importance to us. And, we would like to thank you for your continued support.