Affinity Fraud


Glossary Editor
Affinity fraud is fraud committed specifically to a group of people who are connected with each other. For example, members of a church, religious group, or other identifiable group may be targeted and offered a good deal on something because the fraudster is or claims to be a member of the group. Donations are often solicited for phony charities under this guise. Members of a certain ethnic group, age, or even occupations can also be targeted for affinity fraud. One of the most vicious forms of affinity fraud targets people who have suffered painful losses. Fraudsters pretending to be raising money to erect a memorial monument may solicit donations from people who have lost loved ones in the armed services, for instance, or from parents who have lost children to drunk driving. Such forms of fraud play on people’s heartache, making them more susceptible to being fooled by the leaders of the scheme.

Affinity fraud can also frequently take the form of pyramid schemes or Ponzi schemes. In a Ponzi, a few people invest initially and they see what looks like a large return on their investment. They recruit other investors, who recruit other investors, but payments come only from new investors, not from any true investment. Similarly, a sales pyramid scheme uses a similar principle of recruiting others underneath one in order to make money, but the focus is on selling goods or services. Typically only a small amount of money is earned from the actual sale of goods, and most of the revenue comes from the fees that new members pay.