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Affinity Fraud: Pastors Must Stop Bringing Wolves Amount The Sheep -- Part 2 of 3

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Richard O. Jones
Affinity fraud includes investment frauds that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly, or professional groups. It is called affinity fraud because the definition of affinity is: a similarity or likeness that connects persons or things.  The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are - or pretend to be - members of the group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times, those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster’s ruse.

These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exist in groups of people who have something in common. Because of the tight-knit structure of many groups, it can be difficult for regulators or law enforcement officials to detect an affinity scam.

Victims often fail to notify authorities or pursue their legal remedies, and instead try to work things out within the group. This is particularly true where the fraudsters have used respected community or religious leaders to convince others to join the investment.

Prime targets of such scams are church groups of various denominations. For example: If it’s a Korean church being targeted then it would most likely be a Korean church leader used to introduce the scammer as a person of trustworthiness.

Regardless of the race of the group, to gain the trust of the congregation the con artist would first befriend a church leader as a means to his or her vulnerable church members.  I have observed over the years that many scams are perpetrated upon the Black church by way of the affinity fraud.  A red flag of alertness should go up anytime a church leader introduces a business opportunity to his or her church that was brought to them by an outsider of the church. Often the opportunities come in the way of investments, or multi-level marketing.  The main attraction is money. They usually tell you of the many people that are making a lot of money. Some of these people you or your church leader may even know. That’s because the people that got in early on are used as the bait to lure others.  Churches are such easy targets because the members are taught to be faithful and expect miracles from God and therefore anything that resembles a miracle will be accepted on faith. The affinity fraud works best among the most faithful because they’re less likely to smell a fraud or call the police if the miracle does not come to fruition. Next week you will read about a recent affinity fraud upon many Black churches and thousands of Black church members across America called the “Miracle Car Scam.” The fraud netted the scammers millions.

Historically, African-American preachers have been misused to mislead their church members for many years. It was the Black church that the white doctors turned to in Macon County, Alabama in the 1930s when they sought human guinea pigs for the syphilis experiment now known as “The Tuskegee Experiment.” It is the pastor’s duty to protect his sheep and not lead them to slaughter. Every time your religious leader endorses an outsider or new member that is the deliverer of an ambiguous miracle, a red flag should go up.

Email: richardojones1@verizon.net

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