The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Beyond Smoke and Mirrors

Is there a Bernie Madoff in your life or in your future?

People are inclined to readily believe and trust those who look like them, talk like them, share their interests and activities, worship as they do, and have the same outlook and point of view.  Affinity fraud can occur when somebody who is seemingly a core member of such a group pitches a financial come-on.  A lack of background information or documentation, a strangely high rate of return on investment, a chance to be part of an exclusive circle or clientele, and a need to "get in right now" are often tipoffs that the outcome will be an unhappy one.

While the media give extensive coverage to the financial loss of affinity-fraud victims and deal to some extent with the shock and bewilderment of such victims, they rarely go deeply enough to examine the sense of shame and betrayal that the affinity group as a whole suffers.  In many cases, this perceived perfidy against "one's own" seems to be fully as painful as the monetary loss.  In the Madoff case, for example, mention is being made of the "shanda."  As with very many Yiddish words, there is no real English equivalent for shanda; it can best be expressed as a long-lasting shame or disgrace that deeply stains the perpetrator's entire social and religious community.

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