We all tend to trust people who are just like us.  That is a truism.  With a knowledge of psychology that would make Sigmund Freud envious, conmen use that trust to their advantage.  Scammers know that once they have a potential victim’s heart and trust, their wallet soon follow. Affinity fraud occurs when a particular scammer targets nationalities, ethnic groups, racial groups, fraternal organizations and religious groups with which he shares an affinity.  Scammers often target members of a religious, ethnic, fraternal or other group that they appear to belong to and offer “special” investment opportunities that ultimately turn out to be worthless or otherwise make them victims of other scams. Similarly, a Memphis pastor, Frederick Smith, was recently charged with using his position for purposes of identity theft when, according to Memphis police he asked one of his parishioners to be on a “Mother’s Board” that he was starting in the church and told her that he needed her Social Security number and driver’s license. Shortly thereafter, Smith allegedly obtained credit cards in her name running up bills of more than $50,000.
Trust me, you can’t trust anyone. Frankly, while you should always do your homework when investing and always be skeptical when someone asks for your personal information, you should be even more skeptical and more diligent in your investment research when the person offering the investment or asking for personal information is someone with whom you share an affinity. The endorsement of someone you know and trust is no substitute for real research into any investment. In this particular case there was no legitimate reason that the parishioner would have had to supply her Social Security number and driver’s license to the pastor in order to serve on his board.
Additionally, if the parishioner had a credit freeze on her credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, even armed with her Social Security number and other personal information, he would not have been able to authorize her credit report to be accessed by the credit card companies when he applied for new credit cards in her name and his application for new credit cards would have been denied. There never were particularly good reasons not to freeze your credit reports, but now that there is no cost to freeze and unfreeze your credit reports, everyone who has not done so should freeze their credit reports right away.
To get the maximum protection from identity theft, it is important to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Here are links to each of them with instructions about how to get a credit freeze:
If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of http://www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”