Everyone, in some way or another, is connected to a group, association or community-based organization. Our interests, backgrounds, and other factors will naturally lead us to those affiliations that best serve our needs. Race, culture, and religious beliefs also play a role in identifying us as members of unique groups that we often come to trust. Affinity Fraud is a type of scam that takes an emotional as well as financial toll on its victims. This is any one of many scams that are designed to prey on individuals based on the trust of the conspirator. The deception may be intentional, as in the case of an investment scam infiltrator, but could just as easily be the result of an enthusiastic, but misguided, participant in a scheme. Affinity fraud poses a danger since it undercuts the usual warnings about investment schemes promoted by strangers. In these cases, the fraud may come to your attention as the result of a contact from a friend, colleague or someone who inspires a bond of trust.
The person running an affinity fraud operation will often join the group in some official manner. Doing this naturally puts people at ease with the new member and a certain degree of trust is given. These people do this for a living and they are very good at gaining trust so it’s not an easy thing to spot in advance. They quickly work to gain more and more trust by identifying themselves as friends of the group’s leaders or they become friends with the leaders so that they can use that relationship to gain even more trust among the members. This type of affinity fraud can take quite a while to set up but the payoffs can be huge.
Another equally effective pitch, if the con artist is not a member of the group, is to lull members into a misplaced trust by selling first to a few prominent members, then pitching the scam to the rest by using the names of those previously sold. The effect is the same: Once the connection to the group is understood, the natural skepticism of the individual member is overcome, and one more group name is added to the sales column. Once a victim realizes that he or she has been scammed, too often the response is not to notify the authorities but instead to try to solve problems within the group, because victims are often in denial or too embarrassed to report the crime to authorities.
Many affinity fraud operations involve Ponzi or pyramid schemes, where new investor money is used to make payments to earlier investors to give the false illusion that the investment is successful. Affinity fraud is practiced by the people you usually want or have come to thrust most. These can be priests, new lovers, old friends, your idols…
How To Avoid Affinity Fraud
- Do not fall for investments promising guaranteed returns or spectacular profits. Similarly, be extremely cautions of any investment that is said to be without risks; very few are risk-free. The greater the potential return, the greater is your risk of losing money. Promises of fast and high profits, with little or no risk, are classic warning signs of fraud. Be aware!
- Scammers are increasingly using the Internet to target particular groups through e-mail spamming. If you receive spam from someone you don’t know, containing a “can’t miss” opportunity, your best move is to forward the spam to me
- Be skeptical of any investment opportunity that is not on paper. Con artists often avoid putting things on paper, but legitimate investments are usually in this format. Avoid an investment if you they tell they don’t have the time to reduce to writing the details about the investment. You should also be suspicious if you are told to keep the investment opportunity as a secret
- No matter how trustworthy the person seems who brings the investment opportunity to your attention seems to be, check him/her out. Investigate the investment thoroughly and check the truth of every statement you are told about the investment. Never make an investment based solely on the recommendation of a member of an organization or religious or ethnic group to which you belong. Be aware that the person telling you about the investment may have been fooled into believing that the investment is legitimate when it is not
- Don’t be rushed or pressured into buying an investment before you have a chance to think about or investigate it. Just because someone you know made money, or claims to have made money, doesn’t mean you will do the same. Be extra skeptical about investments that are pitched as “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities, especially when the promoter bases the recommendation on confidential or “inside” information