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Alleged scam artist poses as high profile metro pastor

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OKLAHOMA CITY - An apparent scam in the metro involves bizarre Facebook messages that appear to be sent from Craig Groeschel, the senior pastor of Life Church.

The message is a request for money.

The more that woman spoke to the person posing as pastor Craig, the more she realized it was all a scam.

She says he was asking for money for an African orphanage, and that her salvation depended on it.

With Life Church locations around the state and streaming online, Pastor Craig Groeschel is a familiar face to many.

Beth Gentry thought she’d found him on Facebook.

“They send you people they suggest be friends, and Craig Groeschel was on there. And I thought, wow, and I was surprised because I figured his friends would be maxed out being the person that he is, so I went ahead and sent a friend request to him,” Gentry said.

It didn’t take long for him to send her a message, asking if he could pray for her.

“He sent this really beautiful prayer and some scriptures, and I was like thank you, and then he was like I had this revelation. Can you send me several hundred dollars to an orphanage in Africa?” Gentry said.

That’s when red flags went up.

He told her his PR people would get in touch with her if she’d give him her phone number.

He said her salvation depends on how much money she sent him.

“I said, ‘well I think it’s a scam, and he’s like well you’re not worthy of being called a Christian, and me and my family will pray for you and we’ll be preaching about you from the pulpit on Sunday,’” Gentry said.

Social media expert Patrick Allmond says social media has created a whole new avenue for scam artists.

“The challenge with social media is that anybody in the world can be anybody they want to,” Allmond said.

That includes Pastor Craig.

Life Church tells us his real account is verified.

“Both Facebook and Twitter now have validated pages and there’s usually some kind of little blue flag on the Twitter account or FB page that says Facebook or Twitter has contacted that organization and verified that is really the true one,” Allmond said.

Life Church released the following statement to NewsChannel 4:

Though neither Craig Groeschel or LifeChurch.tv have had any of our social media accounts hacked, people unfortunately continue to create fake accounts impersonating Craig and other pastors. We work with Facebook to remove the fake accounts, and they have designated Craig's official account as verified. Under no circumstances would Craig or any LifeChurch.tv pastor ask for donations via private Facebook messages. We caution people to never respond to a private Facebook solicitation that appears to come from Craig, and to instead report it to Facebook.