Knox County minister warning churchgoers about scammer

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knox County minister has a scam warning for church members throughout the area.

Karns Church of Christ Minister Steve Higginbotham says someone is using his name to scam his church members out of money, and it has been happening for years.

“A couple years ago I had some people come and tell me that a friend of mine needed some help. They ran into, just by circumstance, and they were able to help him out with money,” he said.

Higginbotham says there was just one problem.

“I didn’t know the man,” he said.

Over the past two years Higginbotham has heard the same story at least six times. It happened again this week.

Steve Higginbotham
Steve Higginbotham

“He begins by saying, ‘You look really familiar to me. Where do I know you from? Where do you go to church?’ And when they tell him Karns Church of Christ, then he says, ‘Oh yeah, that’s where I’ve seen you. The preacher there is Steve Higginbotham,’ and he goes on and tells this story,” said Higginbotham.

He tells a false story about how Higginbotham helped with the man’s son’s funeral.

“It’s a very sad, heart-tugging story,” said Higginbotham.

It ends with the plea for money to get back to his home state of Oregon.vlcsnap-2015-07-10-23h15m35s84

“They just think that they had an opportunity to be Christ-like and the guy is taking advantage of him,” said Higginbotham.

Higginbotham says he does not think his church is being singled out because he has heard the man has used at least one other church and church pastor’s name.

“Very engaging. Very knowledgeable. He’s done his homework,” he said.

When it happened again this week Higginbotham sent an email to his congregation of almost 400 warning them to be careful with their generosity.

“It’s disappointing. It’s frustration. I know some people have been very benevolent toward him,” he said.


Higginbotham says the man has been spotted outside various stores throughout Knox County including WalMart, grocery stores, and West Town Mall.

So far no one has reported him to police.

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