I learned a term the other day that got me to thinking about recovery meetings. Here’s an extensive quote about the term Affinity Fraud.
“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 enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times, those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster’s ruse.
These scams exploit the trust and friendship that exist in groups of people who have something in common. Because of the tight-knit structure of many groups, it can be difficult for regulators or law enforcement officials to detect an affinity scam. Victims often fail to notify authorities or pursue their legal remedies and instead try to work things out within the group. This is particularly true where the fraudsters have used respected community or religious leaders to convince others to join the investment.”
In my opinion recovery groups, be they SMART or 12 step, are groups that people perceive as being there for mutual help and support. As such they may be more fertile ground for sexual predators or con artists. Over the years I have seen people robbed by people who trusted other group members, often with no other experience with the person other than they met in a recovery group. The history of sexual predation in recovery groups is well known. Recovery rooms have more than their fair share of people with criminal history. Often people are there with no interest in recovery but are on a court card. Add to that that newcomers may be particularly vulnerable.
For the group I facilitate I occasionally mention that we are here for mutual support but to keep a normal level of skepticism for new relationships. Treat the group as you would if it were an adult education class. You’re there with a mixture of young and old with the purpose of learning a subject. You may benefit from outside relationships with classmates such as study groups etc, but you don’t give them your house keys until you have extensive experience with them.