In March, 2007 Dateline NBC aired a story called "To Catch an Identity Thief" in which a man was fooled into going into business with a woman who promised he would make a lot of money if he would re-ship goods sent to his home to overseas recipients. The man, Jeff Ball, fell in love with this woman, Wendy, who earned his trust and then defrauded him well over $40,000 in shipping expenses on these packages. The fact that she gained his trust only to turn around and screw him over describes a fraud called affinity fraud.
Affinity fraud is a scheme in which your trust in another person is used against you. This is a type of moral crime that can take a financial and emotional toll on the victims. The person running this type of scheme targets people by gaining their trust and infiltrating their ranks. These groups are often churchgoers, senior citizens, cultural minorities, and low income individuals.
A person engaged in affinity fraud will often become a member of a group in some official looking manner. Doing so puts people at ease with the newcomer and a certain degree of trust is given. These con artists do this regularly and are adept at earning other people's trust.
Friendships or relationships are established for financial gain
A person engaged in an affinity fraud scheme will automatically earn some trust among their fellow members. They work quickly to earn more trust by associating themselves with the leaders of the group so that they can utilize that relationship to earn trust among the group's members. This type of fraud can take some time to establish but the rewards can be big for the person committing this scam.
Victims of affinity fraud are very embarrassed
Affinity fraud scams are difficult to note and stop because the victims are in a state of denial or too embarrassed to report the crime to local authorities. Victims feel there is nothing that can be done because the money or property was freely given to the culprits. At the very minimum, report the crime to authorities so that the perpetrators can be stopped and nobody else will become a victim. Otherwise the crooks will seek to victimize other unsuspecting people.
There are lots of consumer fraud schemes out there. It is up to you, the consumer, to educate yourself to recognize what is and is not legitimate. Hopefully our advice will help you minimize becoming a victim of the crime of theft by deception.