Affinity scams use your trust in personal relationships against you
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. Friends suddenly turn into victims because the person running the scam targets a group of people and attempts to gain their trust by infiltrating their ranks. These groups are often church groups, racial minorities and senior citizens.
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. We can’t exactly recommend that you don’t trust people because that’s no way to live but hopefully we can give you some case studies and tips to help you avoid this kind of fraud.
Personal relationships are developed for financial gain
A person running an affinity fraud operation will, by the tight-knit nature of the group they join, automatically gain some trust among their fellow members. But 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 fraud can take quite a while to set up but the payoffs can be huge. The word-of-mouth among members can create a situation ripe for exploitation.
Affinity Scam Victims are embarrassed
Affinity Fraud operations are hard to identify and stop because victims are often in denial or too embarrassed to report the crime to authorities. There is often a feeling that the money or property that was gifted to the perpetrators was freely given so there’s nothing anyone can do. This is far from the truth. At the very least report the crime so that the fraud can stop and no more group members are victimized. Otherwise the suspect will just move on to new hunting grounds and continue to rob people.
Affinity Fraud in action
I have a co-worker that just lost a sizable amount of money to someone that she befriended over the internet. She had known him for many, many months and they had met several times and there was talk of moving in together. Things seemed to be moving along quite naturally and the two were becoming quite close.
Then, when the date for moving approached, her friend began to question her trust and ask to look at her AOL account so he could be sure she wasn’t having relationships with other men. It would only take a minute. Well, in that minute he got her credit card number and social security number. Soon after unauthorized purchases began appearing on her credit card and she found out she had credit cards she had never signed up for.
It turns out that this man she was in love with had a network of women that he was grooming and gaining the trust of. My co-worker contacted a few to try and get them to report the man’s activities to the authorities but almost all of them either didn’t believe her or they were too embarrassed. As we saw above this is all a classic reaction. The person in question is a friend or lover so how could this happen?
Like I said, we can’t exactly tell you not to trust anyone but use your head. Don’t give people large amounts of money. Don’t give people access to your accounts. Any kind of account. If it’s an especially large sum of money, do some research even if it’s a church group you’ve belonged to all your life.