Concerned about the tidal wave of fraud sweeping over Utah that has reached an estimated $2 billion in purported scams, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is stepping up to participate this year in an event that aims to erect a protective wall.

After skipping the first Fraud College conference in 2010, the church, whose members have been battered as victims of fraud, is sending Managing Director of Public Affairs Michael Otterson to speak at the Feb. 15 conference.

“It’s extremely significant,” said Brent Baker, a Salt Lake City securities attorney and one of the Fraud College organizers. “For the first time we’re going to hear an official statement by the LDS Church other than a diluted message about being good to your fellow man.”

Financial scams have come to light at alarming levels in Utah in the past four years. The recession pushed into the open schemes that are carried out through what’s known as affinity fraud, in which con artists exploit bonds of trust that form in groups of people who share beliefs or interests.

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