Michelle Singletary, in her Washington Post/Bloomberg column, writes that Internet openness has made it much easier for people to be preyed upon by con artists who specialize in affinity fraud, using people's connection to certain groups to gain their trust, and ultimately, their life savings.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) recently warned investors to look out for shady investment deals pitched by people they connect with on social networking sites. State security regulators warn that con artists are using the information you post to make highly targeted pitches within your social group.


"We issued the warning because we had more and more people calling in saying they had lost money over the Internet," said Jack E. Herstein, NASAA's president.

For years, con artists have found victims through offline social networks such as faith-based, civic, community and professional groups. They join the groups and ingratiate themselves, making connections in person. This takes time and you have to come face-to-face with your victims.

Online fraudsters can target more people in less time and never have to travel …

Read Michelle Singletary's entire column at the Washington Post/Bloomberg.