It’s not just the rich or famous anymore. Many scam artists prey on people from all ages and walks of life, often targeting those they already know – perhaps they attend the same church or knitting club – in so-called “affinity fraud,” writes Carolyn Said of the Houston Chronicle in a recent article.

Victim advocacy and security groups gathered recently in the San Francisco area for a seminar warning about investment fraud. All said to be wary of offers that sound too good to be true.

“Some people think investment fraud only has to do with stocks or bonds,” said Marc Fagel, regional director of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “But any time you invest money and expect you’ll get some money back, that’s a security.”

There are some similarities that Amanda Marshall, U.S. attorney for Oregon, ticked off: “Promises of large above-market returns, an alleged history of making money, promises of no risk, promises investors can pull money out at any time. When the payments stop, the first thing they say is, ‘Don’t tell authorities.’ ”

These two common frauds: pump and dump, in which hucksters talk up a “micro stock” on Internet chat boards to lure investors, artificially driving up the stock price; and Ponzi schemes, in which swindlers use money from newer investors to pay earlier investors.

During the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against almost 15,000 defendants, officials said.

This poor economy has brought many more schemes to light, as people who thought they were investing in legitimate enterprises asked for their money back because they needed it.

“Now it’s, ‘Let me protect you from the dangers of the stock market, with Chinese companies or oil wells,’ ” Fagel said.

Lately, investments in gold or mining are also favorites of scam artists, said Nicholas Coluccia, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The online fraudsters work by taking small amounts of money at a time, like a $25 wire fee, said Nicole Jones, a counsel for Google.

Carolyn Said writes that there’s the “Mugged in London” scam, where an acquaintance’s email is hacked and mail sent to all her contacts saying she was robbed and needs money wired to get home.

There’s another favorite: Scammers list a vehicle for sale on Craigslist or other site “priced just a little too well,” saying they can’t meet in person, but claiming the buyer is covered under Google’s or eBay’s nonexistent vehicle protection program.

“There is even a puppy scam, in which someone says they’re moving overseas and their little puppy needs to be adopted” and asks for money for veterinary and other expenses, Jones said.

Securities Lawyer, Lars K. Soreide, of Soreide Law Group, PLLC, represents clients nationwide. For a free consultation on how to potentially recover your financial losses call: 888-760-6552, or you may visit our website and complete the online form at: