Looking out for strangers and suspicious letters is hard enough work, but surely when you’re at home or among friends, you can let your guard down. Unfortunately, no, because here’s where we enter the murky world of affinity fraud. Affinity fraud targets members of the same social, religious, ethnic, or other distinct group. That means that the very people sharing a pew with you or sipping drinks poolside may be looking to bilk you. Sad, but true.
This kind of fraud works because people tend to be more trusting of, and more comfortable with, someone who is like them in some way. There is a sense of bonding and shared experience that comes along with that common affinity. For the con artist, there is also the added benefit of free publicity. Once one person is hooked, they’re likely to spill the beans to another member of the group, and so on.
Affinity frauds have been perpetrated against every group imaginable. The two most common forms, pyramid and Ponzi schemes, play on people’s desire to make an easy buck by investing in “a sure thing.” Rather than striking it rich, however, participants find themselves striking out, losing much or all of their investment. In matters of money, the old adage applies. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Many people would like to strike it rich overnight, but there’s a reason why they don’t. It’s not easy. Any person who makes it sound like they’ve found a surefire way to make you an instant millionaire should immediately arouse suspicion.