Recently a particular form of affinity fraud has been affecting members of the latino community in California, but the lesson is one that applies to everyone and regardless of where you live. The scam involves a Spanish speaking person approaching another person of latino heritage and telling the victim that the sammer has a winning lottery ticket, but because he or she is not a citizen, he or she cannot collect the winnings. Often the scammer will further appeal to the victim through distinctive Spanish terms of endearment and will also often make religious references. They tell the victim that they need to provide collateral to the lottery in order to claim the prize. Often they will also have phony lawyers with them to help convince the victims of the legitimacy of the claim. Other times they provide telephone numbers to phony lottery headquarters where a co-conspirator “verifies” what the scammer has been telling the victim. Ultimately, the victim turns over money to the scammer to use as collateral and agrees to aid in making the claim of the winnings, but ends up with nothing.
No American lotteries require winners to be citizens. No American lotteries require collateral be put up in order to collect your winnings. However, the biggest lesson from this type of scam is the danger of what is called affinity fraud which occurs when the scammer is someone who is “like you.” They may share a common religion, ethnicity or membership in a fraternal group. All of these things raise your trust level and scammers know this and take advantage of this. Regardless of who is offering you a proposal, you should never accept the proposal merely because they are “like you.” In fact, it should make you more suspicious. Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.