Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

Affinity Fraud

Affinity fraud is practiced by con artists who share a common membership with their victims in an ethnic, religious, career, or community-based group. A related scam is to get members of a group to trust the con artist by first selling to a few prominent members. They get the promised high return, and the scam is then pitched to other members using the previous buyers as references. Early investors may be wildly enthusiastic about a scheme that can collapse entirely after more investors are taken in.

Once victims realize that they've been scammed, they're reluctant to notify authorities. They'll try to resolve the problem within the group. Con artists count on this loyalty.

Just because someone belongs to your church, club or business association, or is of the same cultural or ethnic background, isn’t grounds for blind trust. Never take someone’s word as a recommendation for an investment. Check it out just as you would any investment. It's extremely unlikely that a great investment opportunity would be available only to a particular religious faith or ethnic group. The promoter may even tell you that because it's only being offered to a particular religious group it doesn’t need to be registered. Almost all investment opportunities must be registered, including church bonds.

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