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Affinity fraud refers to investment scams that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly, or professional groups. The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are, or pretend to be, members of the group. They often recruit respected community or religious leaders from within the group to promote the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile.
Many affinity scams involve "Ponzi" or pyramid schemes, where new investor money is used to pay off earlier investors to give the false illusion that the investment is successful. This ploy is used to trick new investors to invest in the scheme and to lull existing investors into believing their investments are safe and secure. In reality, the fraudster almost always steals investor money for personal use. Both types of schemes depend on an unending supply of new investors, and when the supply of investors inevitably dries up, the whole scheme collapses and investors discover that most or all of their money is gone.