Affinity Fraud: Lower than Low



Cora Bullock

Fraud Magazine Assistant Editor

I had a mild experience with a Bernie Madoff-type of sociopath right after college when I moved into an apartment with a girl that was a friend of a friend. She was the life of the party; people flocked to her like moths to a flame. When she chose to be friends with you, you felt honored. But it was all a deceiving façade.

She claimed to be going to school (which she wasn't). She was aghast when I told her that my credit card company sent me past-due notices for bills I had never received. A mutual friend, upon hearing my lament, sat in silence on the other end of the phone and then said, "Check the drawer of her nightstand." Sure enough, there sat my credit card bills full of charges from my card that I had never made. I went to restaurants and businesses around Austin and found copies of the credit card receipts, with a signature that was quite obviously not mine, some during vacations when I was out of town. I confronted her, and she denied, denied, denied, until I waved the receipts in her face. Then she broke down, swearing she'd pay me back. And I believed her because I wanted to.

The final straw came a few months later when I walked into our house and thought we'd been robbed - all of our stuff was missing. Turns out our landlord had taken some furniture, all of the electronics and sporting goods - all of which happened to be mine - as collateral for unpaid rent. Guess who wasn't paying rent?

I eventually got all of my stuff back by involving her parents, but she never reimbursed me for the credit card charges (no more than $600). I consider myself lucky.

Of all the frauds perpetrated in this world, the most heinous is affinity fraud. I envision these people carefully searching and screening their future victims. Once they find the ideal candidates, they set about manipulating them, building rapport, only to take them for all they've got. It makes my blood boil.

I edited the Fraud Magazine March/April 2013 article, "Affinity is only skin deep: Insidious fraud of familiarity." The opening story is outrageous. Seng Tan got in good with the Cambodian community through the shared pain of the Pol Pot regime, during which thousands disappeared and died. These people had lived in terror and escaped with nothing but their lives to the U.S. They met this woman, who " knelt in their temple to pray, and they cried and laughed together over their shared experiences." And what did Tan and her husband do? Robbed them of every precious penny of their life savings, to the tune of $30 million, to live in luxury and comfort. What? Are you kidding me? They are sociopaths and completely disgust me.

The latest video on is of Kevin Forrester, a fresh-faced, charming man who stole from his own grandmother. What kind of person steals from their grandmother? Though he was convicted and served time, he's still trying to burnish this lowest of low behavior.