Sunday, November 19, 2017

Scam Spotting: Is this kitten for sale page on Facebook legit or not?

Someone brought this to the attention of /r/scams... is this legit?

FB page claims to have Sphynx kittens for sale at $600 
The initial page is already problematic. Google photo search comes up with a for sale ad from south Australia town of Glenunga.


Scrolling through the cute photos shows they've been advertising these cats since January 20th, 2017.

A volunteer contacted them via Facebook Messenger, and they claimed to be in Dallas, TX.


Their first timeline photo is this cat:


While I cannot find the EXACT photo, it was pretty obvious it was a screencap from a video, as I was able to find this photo of the same cat, the same potted plant, the same plastic sheet on the same table, just different pose, but it's from a classified ad in Granada, Spain.  There's a video below (no longer available) so presumably, that's where the above "photo" came from.



Saturday, November 18, 2017

MLM Basics: The eBay Test

"Jason McRiffle" brought up an interesting test in a BehindMLM comment for the "legitimacy" of an MLM, and it's more useful than it first seems. He dubbed it "the eBay test".

If an MLMer wants you to join "for the product", the way to check whether it's viable or not... is to take the product name and size, and go search on eBay for the same item.

If you can buy it cheaper on eBay including shipping than what you are supposed to sell it for, then it's clearly NOT profitable to join at all as you can't retail it at any profit.

Let's randomly pick one product from each of the top 3 MLM companies by revenue: Amway, Avon, and Herbalife.

Amway Nutrilite Double X Refill "retail price" is $88 on Amway's website


Same refill is easily found on eBay for $50-$60, and if you want to bid, even less



That's not a surprise, is it?


Sunday, November 12, 2017

How Paris Hilton and celebrities made SEC, FTC, and FDA see red: possibly illegal endorsements and reviews are exploding; how to spot them and avoid them



What do actor Jamie Foxx, ex-Boxer Floyd Mayweather, rapper DJ Khaled, soccer player Luis Suarez, and hotel heiress Paris Hilton have in common?

They all endorsed an initial coin offering (ICO), either publicly or online. Jamie Foxx tweeted about anticipating Cobinhood, Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled endorsed Centra, Luis Suarez endorsed Stox. Paris Hilton tweeted that she supported ICO of Lydian. only to delete the tweet 3 weeks later.

New York Times wrote an expose on how boxer Floyd Mayweather and rapper DJ Khaled endorsed an ICO called Centra, despite many questions about the head of the company and the business model. And that is when Security Exchange Commission (SEC), the regulatory body of investments in the US, started to see red.

SEC had already issued an investor bulletin in July specifically on ICOs, warning that some ICOs may be considered securities in the US, and promotion of such may violate security laws because they are not registered with the SEC.

SEC in September 2017 closed two fraudulent ICOs and alleged Maksim Zaslavskiy of fraudulently promoting two ICOs, REcoin and DRCoin, which were advertised as being backed by real estate and diamonds. SEC alleged that Zaslavskiy raised only 1/10th of the money he actually did, and never hired any experts nor purchased any diamonds or real estate as it claimed it did or will do. SEC obtained a court order to freeze all assets of companies related to these two ICOs.

SEC on November 1st issued a directive to all people, but specifically, celebrities who promote/endorse ICOs.
Any celebrity or other individual who promotes a virtual token or coin that is a security must disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion.  A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws.  Persons making these endorsements may also be liable for potential violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws, for participating in an unregistered offer and sale of securities, and for acting as unregistered brokers.  
Paris Hilton seems to be the only celebrity who had walked back on his or her ICO endorsements as of 11/11/2017.

But SEC wasn't the only US Federal agency out looking for misleading and possibly illegal endorsements. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are also clamping down on such illegal behavior that may be misleading consumers.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

This Is How Internet Pet Scam Break Your Heart and How You Can Avoid it



Pet scams are all over the place, and pet scammers have moved onto the Internet as well. Current generation of pet scammers create fake "adoption" websites, then hand you off to associates with fake pet shipping services with an excuse for additional fees.

A woman in Milwaukee was duped by a fake kitten adoption website. The man claimed to be in Virginia and will ship her a kitten for $170... Except he demanded payment via a reloadable gift card, not regular methods. Then later, when a separate scammer called her, claimed they need to "recrate" the kitten at the airport for additional $840 that's "refundable" she knew she'd been had. They even used the name of a real pet transport service.

A Delaware woman was duped into sending money via Western Union to a scammer for deposit on a toy poodle, and even told the woman to go to Baltimore, MD to pick it up, except the address was bogus... The man living at that address had no pets, much less a toy poodle.

Delta Airlines discovered that someone had created a fake pet transport service using Delta's name called DeltaPetTransit.com, complete with Delta's logo and pictures of its planes, used by pet scammers to trick people out of even more money.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Difference Between Skeptical People and Toxic Negative People

When one searches on the internet (through Google, Bing, or any other search engine), one often comes across MLM minded articles, and so many of them are touting "no negativity". In fact, heaps of articles are online about how to deal with negativity. Some may even quote 'studies' that claimed successful people avoid negative people. Some of the articles are actually relatively accurate, but many of them are just outrageously wrong.

One website used this definition:
Negative people are friends, family, strangers, associates, or prospects that talk badly, or in a non-positive way about your dreams, goals and how you plan on accomplishing them.
Why would people be positive about your dreams, goals, or potential accomplishments? Your friends and family will probably support you just because they know you. But why should ANYONE ELSE care? It would be up to you to convince them.

The same author went on to describe techniques on how to overcome the resistance of the prospect... Though prospect here means a potential recruit into the organization, not a prospect for a sale. But that's not the problem.

Another author claimed that negativity comes from lazy people who can't profit easily from MLM and create a rant blog about it, then went on to use "pyramid // pyramid scheme" obfuscation to deflect the criticism. It was a classic diversionary tactic.

Both suffer from a fundamental problem of lumping in all criticism, including skepticism, as "negativity".

And if you can't tell legitimate questions from insults, you can never improve your situation.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Scam Hilarity: Suspect ponzi claims to be mining bitcoin w/ perpetual motion engine



Woo, short for woo-woo, is a term used to describe something that is completely implausible, yet explained with pseudo-scientific and potentially-plausible jargon that can fool innocent sheeple. You can encounter woo in all sorts of places, and most of the time they do no harm. However, when they show up in medicine and finance, they can do quite a bit of harm indeed. And today, we'll discuss the a new wrinkle... physical woo on top of financial woo.

But let me start from the beginning.

HYIP, or "high yield investment program" is a form of ponzi scheme that promised impossibly high yields. Claimed returns like 1% per day is not uncommon.

Some of them are pretty transparent in being a scheme, while others may adopt weasel language like "crowdfunding" or "charity". Yet others turn to woo explanations for their ability to pay such high yields that makes absolutely no sense when examined in detail. Frankly, it failed to pass the smell test... If they have techniques that can reliably generate such income, just put down a mortgage or borrow X dollars from credit card or bank, and they'll make it back in no time. Right? Yet there have been, for decades, schemes that attempt to explain their ability to generate such returns, with bogus excuses such as "bridge loans" [DOJ], "P2P lending" [CNBC], "forex" [DOJ], "arbitrage" [wikipedia], "penny auctions" [CBSnews], "prime bank" [SEC] and so on.

The latest buzzword is cryptocurrency, and it's no wonder ponzi schemes have latched onto it as the latest craze, by incorporating something people who have heard of, but do not understand, as their woo. Some launch their own cryptocurrency (that nobody would ever use), yet others latch onto the idea of cryptomining, the idea that you can "mine" bitcoin and other currencies.

While cryptomining is real, it is hard to make money in such because the hardware to mine and the electricity to run them, not to mention cooling, are expensive as well. It may be possible to run such in China and Eastern Europe, where electricity is cheap (by government mandate) and hardware and labor are cheap, esp. if one exploit scale by running massive crypto-mine.

So the latest crypto-woo is launched by a company called USI-Tech, which used to be Forex HYIP (see above), but they've since switched to Cryptomining as their new woo. Recently in London, they've shown their latest "innovation"... they can create "virtually FREE energy" to run their cryptomining machines.
USI-Tech claims they can create "virtually free energy",
but they only want to run cryptomining rigs with it

Perpetual motion machine doesn't exist, as it violates law of thermodynamics. Yet there are plenty of kooks who claim they made one, or claim the knowledge was suppressed by the evil government or energy consortiums or something. Though you had to admit, using one to power cryptomining is rather cute.

But what does this thing look like?



Monday, October 30, 2017

Scam Psychology: Theory on Stupidity, Scam, ponzi, and pyramid schemes

Ever heard of Professor Cipolla's theory on stupidity? Neither have I until recently, but it explains quite clearly how the world works, esp. scams.

According to professor Cipolla, you can measure a person by 2 axis: benefit derived from their own actions... and benefit to others because of their own actions

It roughly goes like this:

Cipolla's theory on stupidity, summarized


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Scam Psychology: The Secret's real secret is victim-blaming and reckless thinking

Recently, I came across MLM "inspirational" propaganda that permeated social media. An example is embeded below, along with my reply:


The original tweet is an attempt to reframe sunk cost fallacy as a virtue, when it's really a cognitive bias that leads you into making irrational decisions.

Think about it... Why is "working through" the pain is preferred way to resolve the pain, when it is just as easy to stop the pain altogether?  Yet that is clearly the implication of the original tweet... by implying that your setbacks are only temporary, and as long as you dedicate sufficient effort you will succeed.

This is unrealistic, dangerous and utterly reckless thinking, yet what MLMers call "positive thinking".  Positive thinking was repopularized recently because some author copied a 1910 book and added some pseudoscience to unproven pop psychology. And MLMers ate it up. 

Yes, I am talking about "The Secret".

First of all, the Secret is not new. As I said, it's a rewrite of a 1910 book with some new pseudo-science references to quantum physics that really made no sense. It is basically magical think: if you ask and believe, you shall receive. It's a rephrase of Bible Matthew 21:22, yet somehow this was generalized to anything in life.

Yet there are a lot of stuff you don't know that's in The Secret...  And they are things you won't hear about from the MLMers who don't want to read about "negativity", even if it's in the book that taught them about positivity.


Friday, October 20, 2017

MLM History: Weight Loss, DMCA Abuse, and Child Porn, Oh My

Weight loss industry is a 60 BILLION dollar business (2013 figure) and it's no surprise there are a lot of various unproven claims from companies that sell magic weight loss formulas, each with its own claims how its own secret ingredient can help you lose weight through some semi-plausible mechanism. Frankly, all of them are bull****. The more you diet and exercise, the more your body adjusts to counteract your efforts. Most of the contestants in "The Biggest Loser" gain back all the weight they lost in a few years, despite all attempts to keep off the weight.

Consumers are getting wise to the various weight loss woos, and the entire diet industry is seeing a slow down, no doubt helped along by magic claims such as "alternative" to gastric bypass surgery by simply swallowing something. That company is called Roca Labs.

To quote the FTC director of Bureau of Consumer Protection, "Roca Labs Has An Adversarial Relationship With The Truth". And that's only the beginning.  (for a complete list, see TechDirt's Roca Labs coverage)

They claimed their product has a 90 percent success rate. In fact, they conducted no trials or clinical studies with their own products.

They offer 50% discount to people who videotape their "success stories", but did not tell people to disclose that they were compensated for such stories.

They operated a website that showed dangers of gastric bypass, with a page that links to selling Roca Labs products, without disclosing they actually own and run the website.

They have a "gag clause" in their contract that if you buy their stuff, you are contractually prohibited from saying anything negative about them for ever and to anybody including review sites and even BBB. And they have sued such customers.

They also claim if you say bad things about them, they'll rescind any discounts you've been given and they'll sue you for the difference. (!)

They tried to sue pissedconsumer.com to shut down negative comments left by members. (They lost)

They threaten to sue the witnesses at their trial for violating the unenforceable gag clause, in a clear case of witness tampering, threaten to sue the other party's expert witness and threatened him with criminal violations, as well as sue the other party's lawyer for statements made in court.

They tried to use DMCA takedown to hide criticism against them

They threaten to sue TechDirt (twice) for reporting on the above egregious behavior, including once from merely QUOTING the lawsuit.

They claimed their opposing lawyer had bribed a state senator into passing the anti-SLAPP law of Nevada which hindered their SLAPP lawsuit. (It was dismissed)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

If you are a victim in Ponzi scheme under receivership, you MUST file a claim BEFORE the deadline!

A lot of ponzi schemes were caught by authorities and assets seized so the victims can be repaid.

  • ZeekRewards Receivership has sent out hundreds of thousands of checks for hundreds of millions of dollars. All victims with allowable claims have received funds for at least 75% of their losses. 

This was a huge ponzi involving almost a billion dollars and a million victims. And this was one of the most successful repayments by the receivership.

But notice the term:  All victims with allowable claims

That means victims who filed all the proper paperwork proving the amount of their loss and other requirements.

Victims who did NOT file the paperwork will probably NOT get anything.  And one case that was adjudicated September 2017 illustrated this clearly.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Scam Tactics: Knowing the Differences among FDA Registered, FDA Certified, and FDA Approved

Recently, someone posted the following comment on BehindMLM

"Davie Watkins" claimed on 6-OCT-2017 that "FDA approved
Vida Divina's Coffee Line in October 2017"

Let's first examine, what did "Vida Divina" reps say about FDA? If you Google, you may find:

The search results says "FDA certified", or "FDA Approved". But what is the truth?
None of the actual results link to FDA, it's just announcements, and they can't even agree on the language. Some say "certified", some say "approved". What is the truth? As it turns out, it was NEITHER.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Scam Psychology: Why Scammed Victims Refused to Believe They've Been Scammed

As the #mlmskeptic, it is often sad to see how people turned absolutely illogical when it comes to money. We all like to believe we are rational creatures, capable of evaluating problems objectively. However, scientists have shown that our biases have far more hold on our processes than we think, and skepticism must be learned to combat those biases.

Let's take ZeekRewards for example. ZeekRewards is a convicted ponzi scheme that was closed in 2012 by US Secret Service and SEC.  You can learn more about Zeekrewards on Oz's website BehindMLM.com , or check my attempt to track the scam throughout 2012 until just as it closed.  But basically, even AFTER the scam was closed by the authories in October 2012, people CONTINUED to believe in the scam.  One of them even posted this note on the closed office window of Zeek:

"We forgive you / Please restructure and save our Dreams"
There are comments posted by conspiracy theorists who insisted that Zeek was closed for nefarious reasons, and Zeek cannot possibly be a Ponzi scheme.

Curt Miller: It was the SEC that slowed your growth, sorry. There were no victims until the government came around...
only 2 million happy affiliates. It was no ponzi and the program would NEVER have gone bankrupt. 
Basically, people are in denial. They refuse to believe they have been scammed. Instead, they behaved irrationally by spinning tales that fit their own biases.

Scientists have been studying this for a long time, and they now have more proof that we would rather believe in something that cost us $$$ rather than accept bad and unpleasant news.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

This looks familiar: SEC shuts down two ICOs (RECoin and DRC) for bogosity

Two days ago (September 29th, 2017) SEC shut down two companies ran by Maksim Zaslavskiy trying to promote ICOs, or initial coin offerings. Zaslavskiy claimed his cryptocurrencies are backed by Real Estate (REcoin) and Diamonds (DRC - Diamond Reserve Club/Coin). Turns out they are just bogus claims.

For those who track this sort of things, this is a virtually beat-for-beat clone of an earlier scam, Gemcoin, "backed by amber", shut down by SEC back in 2015.

Gemcoin was a fictional cryptocurrency released by USFIA based in Arcadia, California. Its head is Steve Chen (also known as Chen Li 陳力).  Chen ran 13 different entities that dabbled in MLM telecom, real estate, jewelry and gemstones, art imports, and so on, and also encouraged recruitment from inside China. In 2014, his latest scheme, American Mining 美洲礦業 collapsed in China leading to multiple arrests. American Mining also promised massive profits by investments in amber.

Steve Chen's final scheme, Gemcoin, is aimed at overseas Chinese ex-pats. It is supposedly a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin but backed by amber. It also claimed amber is very valuable and USFIA has exclusive mining rights and jewelry factory in the Dominican Republic. It had the backing of several local celebrities, including former mayor of Arcadia John Wuo. Steve Chen and his second, Leonard Johnson, ran investment seminars in multiple Chinatowns across North America, sometimes even dressing up his security guard, John Zhang, as a "jewelry appraiser".

When SEC finally shut down USFIA/Gemcoin in 2015, the scheme had taken in over 30 million dollars. John Wuo, who had endorsed Gemcoin, quickly resigned as city councilman "due to health reasons".  And the truth started coming out... The receiver who took over the company said there are no gem grade amber in storage, just regular 'souvenir' grade stuff. And the alleged contract for the mine doesn't exist either. It was all one huge hoax scam. 

When you go through the history of REcoin and DRC, you will find a familiar albeit accelerated pattern.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Less than 1/4 of all pyramid scheme victims ever file a complaint, says FTC survey

Some recent surfing brought me to an interesting bit of information:
...consumers who had purchased a [membership in] pyramid scheme were the least likely to complain – less than one-quarter indicated that they had complained. -- FTC fraud survey (2004)
This is a fascinating statistic. The FTC definition of pyramid scheme specifically means "pyramid marketing schemes", as in MLMs that went over to the dark side.

Here it is important to note that FTC questions were actually 1) Did you purchase an opportunity to operate (your) own business  2) Were you lead to believe most of the money earned from this business would be from recruiting others to join the business, rather than sale of products and 3) Were you deceived by the offer of business opportunity with false income claims or false offers of assistance?  (Not exact wording, but you can find the questions in the linked PDF)

It is worth noting that in MLM...

A) Almost all MLM claim you are "owning your own business", follow by a derisive attitude toward a job ("just over broke" is often uttered).

B) You almost always get some lecture that you are NOT in a pyramid scheme, yet you are told to "build your team", which is just euphemism for recruiting.

C) Many questionable "leaders" of MLMs will resort to false income claims and false offers of assistance to get you to join, then blame you for your failure. "You must be doing it wrong", they'll point fingers, "because it worked for me."

But there is a hidden statistic that is not obvious until you read the fine print...
... In conducting this test it was necessary to drop the government jobs and business opportunities categories because there are too few consumers who experienced these types of frauds to meet the necessary statistical properties to conduct a Chi-square test.
The "government jobs" fraud is victim paid for false promises of government jobs. And business opportunities... needs no introduction.

But think about it. If there are so few reported incidents for them to even calculate the odds of underreporting...

Either there are so few instances of fraud in business opportunities...

Or there are so many instances of underreporting in business opportunities that it's like an iceberg...

Let's consider a real ponzi case... Zeek Rewards.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Commentary: Is LuLaRoe eating its own tail?

Recently, multiple news outlets reported several disturbing reports that LuLaRoe is not only rescinding money back policies, but also threatening to sue a blogger critical of its operations to obtain information that it claimed were "proprietary".  This has raised questions about why would a company with claimed 80000 reps would turn on its reps like this.

First, multiple TV stations reported that local reps are worried when LuLaRoe rescinded its no-fee 100% money back and free return shipping policy, which has only been in effect for a month. Instead, reps are to use the regular return channel, which only return 90% of price, but also have to pay shipping.

According to reps, the inventory you get from LuLaRoe is like hitting a lottery, as you cannot specify designs, merely quantity and size. Similar to collectible card games. Certain rare patterns sell quickly at inflated prices on eBay or such, while the rest languish in rep's stock, until the rep either liquidate them on eBay and give up, or try to go through the buyback process. There are rumors that up to 4000 cases of refunds are pending, and people have been waiting for months

And unlike other MLMs, LuLaRoe's startup costs are extremely high, as much as 5500 dollars to start, and if rep can't sell them, often the advice one gets from rep's upline is "order more!"  Some reps claimed you need about 15000 in inventory and markup of over 40% to earn a profit. And if you get a bunch of duds from the factory order (remember, it's random), you will have to arrange a trade with a different rep... if you can find someone who wanted your duds and trade you something they considered duds.

One blog that exposed such practices, and other complaints about LuLaRoe from disgruntled customers and reps was Christina Hinks, better known as MommyGyver online. And after publishing many such complaints, including documents shared online by such, Hinks has been served with a "discovery petition" from LuLaRoe demanding that she...

...disclose the identity and contact information of potential defendants who have damaged LLR and its goodwill by providing Respondent with LLR's confidential and proprietary business information, information about LLR and its merchandise, and false, derogatory information regarding LLR, much of which respondent has posted on her blog, www.mommygyver.com.
The interesting thing is much of the information had already been shared online via various social media platforms.

LuLaRoe so far has yet to comment about this potential SLAPP suit, though they did respond to the change in return policy (which is technically against their own company policy that changes in return policy must be announced for 30 days before it can go into effect). LuLaRoe's statement claimed the policy was always 90% buyback. The "improved" 100% buyback and free shipping was merely a temporary "waiver".

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Scam Tactic: Moving the Goalpost (aka Special Pleading)

Moving the goalpost is very simple to explain with a single image:

Moving the goalpost, courtesy of zapiro @ zapiro.com
If someone moves the goal post, you'll never to be able to score a goal.

So what does that have to do with scams? Two ways:

1) when scammers promised one thing, then moved the goalpost with some excuses, or

2) when scam deniers tried to deny the evidence of the scam by moving the goalpost.


Scammer Moving the Goalpost

Scam companies that promise an IPO (initial public offering) while offering stocks or options to affiliates are known to move the goalpost because the IPO either will never take place, or takes place but were completely useless.  One such example was Wantong Miracle 萬通奇跡 scam in China, where a known scammer who launched multiple scams in China AND in the US seem to have finally been arrested by Chinese authorities.

Some suspect that recent attempts by Visalus to roll back the promised "founders equity incentive plan" may also be "moving the goalpost" after one side had already satisfied the requirements, only to be met with even MORE requirements from the other side or lose the supposed equity incentive they have gained, that a judge had to issue a restraining order.

OneCoin, which has been accused by multiple regulatory bodies on multiple continents of being a scam or a suspect scam, has repeated changed or delayed its IPO or ICO (depending on when you asked).  In January and February 2017, OneCoin announced they will go IPO in "early 2018", then the date was moved to July 2018 according to a Chinese website on OneCoin. However, in September 2017, the news completely changed. Instead of IPO, affiliates of OneCoin claimed that OneCoin will conduct an ICO (initial coin offering) instead, and it will not be until October 2018. That's at least THREE delays in less than a year, and it's ALWAYS a year away.

"Always delay the day of reckoning" is a standard bull****er tactic.

Let's go onto our next topic, scam denier moving the goalpost

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Even "Hedge Fund of the Year" Got Tricked By Ticket Ponzi Scheme

A sports talk show radio host claims he has access to an almost unlimited amount of discounted major sports tickets, and he needed a lot of money to buy them in order to share the profits. Do you believe him?

A "hedge fund of the year" with 18 billion assets did, and it appears they have lost $4.3 million they put into two companies controlled by this talk show radio host.

You may think who'd believe this sort of stuff, or how can they be this stupid, but really, think about it...

Hedge funds, esp. fund of the year are NOT stupid.

However, there's no doubt that this is a ponzi scheme... When the Feds arrested the radio talk show host and uncovered a trove of communications between him and his co-conspirators, as well as evidence of his millions in gambling debt.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is the very definition of Ponzi scheme. This radio talk show host, who co-hosts with a VERY famous former NFL celebrity, had been accused with running this scheme.

Yet you can see this sort of argument proliferate in the "make money fast" market, and promoters use the language of "this can't possibly be a scam because it associated with _____", and this guy has it in spades. A famous hedge fund gave him millions of dollars. He co-hosts a show with a celebrity. He can't possibly be a scammer, right?

WRONG!

Lesson to take away: when someone tries to sell you something on reputation only, think VERY VERY HARD on it. The risk is probably much higher than you think.




Saturday, September 2, 2017

How to spot truth in sea of lies, rumors and myths

Spotted this in the Lifehacker archives (originally published 2012) but it's still relevant

The internet is full of crap. For every piece of reputable information you'll find countless rumors, misinformation, and downright falsehoods. Separating truth from fiction is equal parts a mental battle and diligent research. Here's how to make sure you never get duped.
As long as words are hitting the page, news and facts are filtered through someone. Sometimes this is a ludicrous rumor that somehow morphs into a fact, or even just a small tip that doesn't work at all. Filtering out the junk from the facts is hard, but it's not impossible.

http://lifehacker.com/5950871/how-to-spot-truth-in-the-sea-of-lies-rumors-and-myths-on-the-internet

Friday, August 25, 2017

IPro Network One Month Update: still no proof of any original claims

More than a month ago, I highlighted some spurious claims by (over-)enthusiastic IPro Network members claiming that some famous personalities have "endorsed" IPro Network.

Two anon comments were left claiming I know nothing, blah blah blah, but left NO evidence to rebut any of the observations. I invited them to leave publicly verifiable evidence, not "I know the secret call me" or "my friend told me" evidence.

It has been about a month, and I haven't gotten a single reply.

So I decided to go search for some myself. Is there any news that Kevin Harrington endorses IPN?

Google says... nope. Indeed, there is ZERO mention of Kevin Harrington with ANY sort of cryptocurrency or blockchain opportunity in the entire 2017 when searched via Google News.

Instead, it appears that in 2017, Kevin Harrington is jumping into soap, cannabis, marine phytoplankton (sea scum), and horse racing, not to mention lending his name to entrepreneur bootcamps and invention services. But nothing about cryptocurrency, and definitely not IPN.

Indeed, the ONLY webpages that mention Kevin Harrington and IProNetwork together are IPro Network members webpages (or social media) and event listings that mention his one-time appearance.

Yet this tweet is still there:


And here's a claim that Kevin Harrington has "JOINED" with Pro Currency Team (i.e. IPro Network)

"Kevin Harrington from the Original hit TV show (Shark Tank) Joins
With Pro Currency Team (IProNetwork)..." claims G+ post

https://plus.google.com/115931890863103213165/posts/VXckhxCjDJk

I am still waiting for the evidence, guys.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

MLMSkeptic Investigates: Why is Valentus illegal in the UK? (it's the ingredients)

Recently, it was all over the news (cite 1) (cite 2) (cite 3) that former finalist for Miss England and FHM model Charlotte Thompson was "busted" selling 'slimming coffee' and got a visit from the UK Trading Standards Officers and told to stop her business.  She went online to vent. But what you won't find in these news articles is WHY did Trading Standards make a visit to her home?

MLMSkeptic investigates this little conundrum, by exploring what Valentus did in the aftermath passing blame, then check the sources from Valentus itself, and the statements by Ms. Thompson, then checking the relevant UK laws and interpretations, to see if there is ANY hope for Valentus, in UK, and in rest of Europe.

Recently, when forced to address the issue, Valentus corporate "Director of International Registration", Terry Recknor, gave a webinar.  Ms. Recknor initially blamed Ms. Thompson for spamming thousands of people, implying that was the reason for the visit from Trading Standards, but she soon dropped this bomb:
What you need to understand is, the products technically are illegal because we’re not registered yet.
This seems to imply that as soon as Valentus registered their products in the UK, then there would be no more problems. In the meanwhile, there are suggestions that recruitment in UK and rest of Europe are continuing as if nothing was wrong, despite warning from Ms. Thompson that dealing in Valentus is apparently illegal.

So, what is the truth? Let's investigate first, what does UK Trading Standards actually do?  In the case of their visit to Ms. Thompson, it is to offer:

  • Business advice: Trading standards offer a range of business advice and enforcement policies for all traders and businesses. These range from issues regarding licensing to consumer protection laws.

So presumably, when you combine the various statements given by Ms. Thompson, Ms. Recknor, and explanations, one should conclude that


  • Valentus SlimRoast coffee needs to be registered in UK
  • Lack of registration is a violation of consumer protection laws
  • Ms. Thompson's spam alerted Trading Standards to let her know


But is this true?  Searching UK Food Laws (Food Safety Act 1990, Food Standards Act 1999, and Food Hygiene Regulations 2006) brought up nothing about registering coffee or similar drink mixes and such.  There had to be a different reason.

Which brings us back to "consumer protection", and what other areas does that cover. This was made clear at a different Trading Standards page:

We make sure that people are not misled by claims, prices, descriptions and other selling techniques used by traders when they are selling goods and services.

As it wasn't about registration, let us investigate whether Valentus made any misleading claims. But what constitutes misleading claims under UK law? As SlimRoast is about weight loss, I googled "weight loss claim UK", and that brought me to Advertising Standard Authority, or asa.org.uk and their guidance on slimming guidelines for the press (PDF).

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MLM Basics: Why do so many MLM noobs don't understand "referral sales" is illegal?

It seems an MLM noob is very fond of her comp plan, which she described as
... I can find 3 people who also want sustainable <item> my order is then FREE
She doesn't realize that this is ILLEGAL. Yes, I said it. It is ILLEGAL.

This is called "referral sales", and it can be described as

  1. Seller offer to prospective buyer a consideration (discount / rebate / commission, etc.) 
  2. for a sale (or lease) of item from seller to buyer
  3. the buyer must provide sellers list of potential customers
  4. the consideration (see 1) is contingent on seller be able to make additional sales/lease to one or more of the potential customers (see 3)

And all four elements are in the quote found earlier. Let's check it again, with the elements highlighted.
... I can find 3 people (3) who also want sustainable <item>(4) my order (2) is then FREE (1)
And yes, this is ILLEGAL. In all 50 states of the US, and in all European countries, and Australia, and so on and so forth.

And you'd be surprised how many companies engage in this ILLEGAL behavior, and its affiliates are completely unaware they are being defrauded.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Can you trust this new company called TresMore? Investigation Part 1

Recently, MLMSkeptic came upon something called TresMore. It sparked my interest because it is heavily marketed toward Asians, with a Chinese name 特利多 (te-li-duo, lit: special profit plenty) and websites in Taiwan, China, and even Malaysia, this thing was basically promising $$$$ for merely shopping, which, as you can imagine, can't possibly work. The premise of paying 20% of retail value just to get your shopping data makes absolutely no sense! Even supermarkets and such don't give you 20%... more like... 2% and coupons.

In fact, this is almost an exact clone of a suspect scheme call Saivian. You can do research on that yourself. Or just read the BehindMLM review.

Researching Tresmore


First, let's look up Tresmore.com  Wow, all these "business partners", eh?

Screencap of Tresmore.com  official Tresmore website. Claims all these
 are business partners. But which ones are real, and which ones are fake? You may be
surprised at the results, once we do a little research, and you can verify for yourself. 
But which one is real? And which ones are pretenders? Let's look a little closer.

TresMore address is 3235 Satellite Blvd, Ste 290, Duluth, GA 30096

That means they rent an office from that building. Suite 290, remember?

Now let's look up their corporate info via Georgia State Website  https://ecorp.sos.ga.gov/BusinessSearch

Registered 3/11/2017 by Chae Chang, why 290B vs 290?
What about filing history?
Well, there is a Tresmore LLC... registered March 2017 by a Chae Chang. Hmmm...  However, if you go into filing history and access the company formation papers, you'll see another name, Sang Lee.

Two people responsible, a Chae Chang, and a Sang Lee, for Tresmore. 
Let's go down the list. So what is EsolutionTG? (item 1)


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Critical Analysis of a R+F consultants denial that R+F is a pyramid scheme

Recently my news feed came across an R+F consultant (that's Rodan and Fields, an MLM cosmetics brand) denying that R+F is a pyramid scheme. Does her denial make sense?

She started out by casting a wide net, basically stating "I hear that from time to time... (some people) believe RF is a scheme... (but) RF isn't like that"

Then she immediately went into defensive dilemma, which means "if you say it to my face, I will assume that 1) you don't know me and I don't know you, or 2) you don't know what you're talking about"

But does the author know what she's talking about?

She never explained what a pyramid scheme is, or how R+F is not like that. She simply claimed that R+F is a legitimate company. But that's interesting are the two factors she cited in her denial.

We are different: really?

According to the author, "If you’re looking at a company’s payroll by levels of income, it’s probably going to resemble a pyramid. The owner is at the top and earns the highest salary, everyone else trickles down.  Right out of the gate, we are different."

Basically, the author is saying that R+F is NOT like a traditional company where the owner is NOT earning the highest salary, isn't it?

Unfortunately, it seems the author is merely half-right. Because R+F is run by Chairman Amnon Rodan (Dr. Katie Rodan's husband) and President/CEO Diane Dietz. Drs. Rodan and Fields own most of R+F. They pocket most of the profit, just not a direct salary.

R+F press release says they achived 626.9 million revenue in 2015, and maybe a billion in 2016. You can be sure all the top execs took home MILLIONS in salaries or other compensations.

It's definitely NOT as different as the author implied.

Monday, August 7, 2017

What you can learn from the EuroFX scam that targetted Chinese victims

EuroFX is supposedly a forex trading company that started in 2012, has 13 year experience, and promised fat returns. It was shut down as a pyramid scheme in China in 2014, with possibly tens of thousands of victims that spread from the US to Phillippines, with possible amounts exceeding 2 billion USD.

What's interesting is the scope of the fraud: this involved Britons, Aussies, Singaporeans, and possibly more, with possible fake names and dozens of companies registered in UK and New Zealand and Australia.

The alleged head was a Briton by the name of David Byrne, and they promise returns of 6 -16% PER MONTH if you can invest up to 250K.  He presented himself as either CEO or Acting CEO. However, when investors caught up with him later after EuroFX's collapse, he claimed either he was only onboard for less than a year, or he's only "consultant CEO".

Whether David Byrne was guilty of collusion was NOT the issue. It's the matter of perception.


Myth: Companies registered in the UK are required to follow all UK law. 

Reality: Companies registered in the UK, but not sell to UK citizens, are NOT governed by UK law. In other words, a UK registered company can cheat and scam non-UK people, and UK law enforcement can do NOTHING about it.

That's what happened in EuroFX, were ActionFraud, the UK fraud hotline, received multiple tips about EuroFX, and even investigated, but ultimately determined that it is NOT within UK jurisdiction as it sold nothing to UK residents and citizens.

Basically, UK biz registration is worthless.

Not that you can rely on just a biz registration to determine if a business is legit any way.

But the point that companies can hire temporary CEOs is the other thing to take away... the alleged CEO is just a part of marketing.


Also see following links:

http://fortune.com/2016/08/13/eurofx-pyramid-scheme-china/

https://atozforex.com/news/why-the-west-ignores-british-ponzi-schemes/

http://eurofxvictim.weebly.com/ (Chinese/English site set up by victims to preserve evidence)



Monday, July 31, 2017

Wareable agrees: HELO LX is overpriced and should be avoided

I'll leave you to go read it on their site:

https://www.wareable.com/fitness-trackers/helo-lx-band-multi-level-marketing-9876

But the most hilarious part is a HELO rep then offered the reviewer, who just gave them a bad rating, a free sample, as if that'll change the reviewer's mind!



DSA's latest attempt to destroy direct selling: Moolenaar Amendment

Direct Selling Association is supposed to be promoting direct selling. Instead, for the past several decades, DSA has been trying to destroy direct selling by killing legislation that would have promoted retail, and promoting legislation that discouraged retail. This is actually not a surprise as DSA is really a lobbying group by the largest MLM companies like Amway, Avon, Herbalife, and so on.

In July 2017, DSA launched its latest attempt to destroy direct selling by trying to attach a rider to the current budget appropriations bill for FY18, known as the Moolenaar Amendment. It claimed that there is no Federal law that defined a pyramid scheme, and this bill would define one. The problem is, this is at best, a half-truth.

The US courts and FTC already have an existing definition of a pyramid scheme: The Koscot Test.  MLM attorney Jeff Babener called it "a twenty-year standard", back in 2001. So by now, it's a 36-year-old standard.  DSA, in its "selective blindness", pretended this standard does not exist so it can substitute a LOOSER definition instead.

DSA's previous attempt to pass a bill, deceptively titled "Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act of 2016", never made it out of committee. This time, by attaching the failed legislation to the appropriations bill, DSA hope it will sail through until various consumer organizations called them out.

But what is wrong with this piece of legislation, vs. the existing standard?

While on the surface the bill sounds rather clear, it contains several interesting bits of language designed to erode the definition over all.

But first, let us go back to the Koscot Test, and how it stood for 36 years (and counting).

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

IPro Network (IPN) and the MLM Game of Telephone: garble up the message to sound better

Recently I came across a comment about IPro Network on BehindMLM.

First, what is iPro Network? Some generic discount network based on some generic altcoin they are billing as some fantastic e-commerce opportunity, you should buy into the currency despite there's no proof that it was widely adopted (since there are tons of altcoins out there). It's so fantastic, there is absolutely NO TRACE of the CEO on the internet (other than on their own website), who wears a clearly wrong size shirt (he can't even button his collar), despite claiming "15 years experience".

Anyway, here's the comment about why is the review so hard on a "legitimate" opportunity.

"Bill Antonio": "Oz I appreciate you trying to protect marketers from scams but why is it that you seem to criticise every business opportunity and preventing people from making money online from legit companies. IPN has been endorsed by Scott Warren a most sought after MLM Lawyer as IPN has met all the compliance guidelines and has also being endorsed by well-known entrepreneur Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank who is highly respected in the business world.They also have sought after motivational speaker Jay Abraham who is in the same league as Anthony Robbins. These people will never be involved in any scams.

Okay, there are a couple things to note:

1) Did Scott Warren, an MLM lawyer, "endorse" IPro Network?

2) Did Kevin Harrington (Shark Tank) endorse IPro Network?

3) Does Jay Abraham work for IPro Network?

Not surprisingly, the answer is "no proof of such" in each and every case.

This is like the game of telephone, where somehow message was distorted into whatever the promoter wanted to say, instead of the REAL content.


So what is the truth? Let MLMSkeptic lead you to some discovery.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

More HELO band hilarity: it can read your wrist when you're not wearing it

Someone spotted this gem from the official HELO FAQ

HELO FAQ: "When you don’t wear it (HELO band),
it still reads something literally from the air" 

That's right, this band is so fancy, you don't even need to wear it for it to sense your body.

WTF?! This is so bogus, I'm surprised anybody would fall for **** like this.

For other HELO band hilarity, read my original article.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Overpromise and Underdeliver: the HELO band

Those of you who have diabetes or pre-diabetes may have been spammed on Facebook or similar social media sites by someone marketing the HELO band. At first look, it is basically something like a Fitbit or such. However, it had promised in Jan 2017 something that had never been achieved by anyone: non-invasive continuous blood glucose estimation. See press release dated Jan 10, 2017.

PRNewswire press release from WRMT where it claimed it will
launch blood glucose estimation tech in its "Helo" wellness band
dated Jan 10th, 2017
However, it is interesting to note that NO SUCH FEATURE was mentioned on World's official website, worldgn.com

worldgn.com shows no blood sugar feature on their HELO device as of JUN-28-2017

Now isn't that interesting...


Sunday, June 25, 2017

HUMOR: How to get rid of people who want to rope you into "make money fast" schemes

Feel free to utilize these pointers to counter sales pitches next time people come up to you and want to recruit you for some sort of income scheme they tout as "can't lose", "risk free", and so on.

#1

  • Wow, sounds amazing. Is your entire family in? I'm sure blood is thicker than water and all that. Is/Are your brother / wife / papa and mama / etc. in? How many relatives did you recruit?
#2
  • Wow, that sure sounds impressive. Did you quit your job and go full-time? Sounds like you can do a lot better in this (insert name). 
#3
  • That's certainly interesting. However, I'm a bit empty in my wallet now. Tell you what, lend me the seed money. I'll split any profit with you 50/50. What do you say? 
#4
  • I thought you said you made plenty of money? So you don't have any money to lend me? 
#5
  • You thought your scheme was impressive? Let me tell you about mine... 

(Inspired by a post from JusticeAlwaysLate, a scambuster on Facebook) 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why should you trust your upline if s/he is making money off of you whether you fail or succeed?

From when you're but a wee little toddler, you've probably been taught some (or all of the following):


  • Don't take candy from creepy people
  • Don't take health advice from tobacco company
  • Don't take money advice from loan company
  • Don't take ethical advice from the Devil

So why do so many MLMers take business and money advice from their upline?

Think about it, In each of the scenarios above, it's basically inmates running the prison, or fox guarding the henhouse... There's an ETHICAL conflict in the scenario.

But, but you say, my upline *wants* me to succeed because if I succeed, s/he earns more, and so do I! How can this be an ethical conflict?

But that's because you fail to see the situation from your upline's perspective, but rather, from the MLM myth it perpetuates about itself.

Let's see it from your upline's perspective....


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Scam Psychology: Crank Magnetism and Sheeple Magnetism

"Crank magnetism" is a phenomenon describing that a crank for one idea often is also a crank of one or more unrelated but equally unorthodox and often irrational ideas.  The term was coined in 2007 by Mark Hoofnagle to describe a particular Holocaust denier who also latched onto some crazy DNA theory of disease from someone else.

When I encounter this term, I immediately thought of how "sheeple", i.e. those victims ready to be fleeced, tend to fall for one scheme after another, not necessarily at the same time, but they are vulnerable to cross recruitment, i.e. "here's something else that'd be good for you". To my surprise, there is no such term.  While sheeple is defined, and there are related terms such as reload scam, the phenomenon that a sheeple can believe in multiple unrelated scams is not a term.

So let me coin the term now: sheeple magnetism... phenomenon describing a sheeple, who fell for one scam, is often vulnerable to other scams.

Ponzi scheme victims are the most often found examples of sheeple magnetism, esp. if they were among the "net winners", i.e the minority who got more out of the scheme than they put in (so the rest are net losers).  They were often given "contrafreeloading" tasks to make them believe they "earned" their money. Such "victims" will go on to a different scheme that they recognize to be of a similar structure: way too easy work, way too much money, and believe they found their path to riches.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Two Ponzi Scammers Got Their Prison Sentences Handed Down...

Two ponzi scammers got their prison sentences handed down recently in early 2017.

Paul Burks, who was the head of the $939 million Zeek Rewards ponzi scheme with over 1 million victims around the world, got 14 years in a Federal prison, in addition to fines of $244 million in restitution (which he can't pay as he already gave up all his possessions) and 3 years probation. Given that Burks is already 70 years old and is believed to be not in the best of health, he may spend his final days in prison.

Two other top heads of the scheme, Daniel Olivarez (computer guru) and Dawn Wright-Olivares (VP of Operations and spokesperson) have been sentenced previously to lesser terms for their contributory roles in the scam that was shut down in 2012 by SEC and Secret Service. It was believed they were fined and have to give up their residence. There was no word on what happened to a restaurant Dawn allegedly operated, or what happened to her job at a different MLM company called iWowwe.

MLM Skeptic had been tracking Zeek Rewards for over a year before it was shut down and published several articles explaining how Zeek Rewards cannot be legitimate. Indeed, in the final days of their scam they tried to gag me with a "takedown request" to my content host by claiming MLMSkeptic had violated their trademark when it was quickly realized that the alleged trademarks was not even owned by them! Must be really desperate over there in their final days, as only a few weeks later when SEC and Secret Service stepped in.

In other news, co-leader of a smaller ponzi known as "The Achieve Community", Kristine Johnson, was sentenced to 21 months in Federal Prison. TAC, which is peanuts compared to Zeek, was shutdown in 2015 by SEC. It was a pretty simple Ponzi scheme that didn't bother to polish itself by hiring celebrity lawyers and experts and pretending to be legitimate. They mainly stuck to Facebook and such, by claiming "triple algorithm" that can multiply money... What utter nonsense.

MLM Skeptic had not been tracking TAC but it was identified early on by Oz of BehindMLM as a simple cycler ponzi scheme.

What do these two scams have in common? It's actually quite simple..

GREED.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bad Propaganda: "Alternative Facts" about MLM

Recently the Trump camp used "alternative facts" when attempting to "defend" some numbers that are obviously bogus... with even MORE bogus factoids. It is interesting to note that this has been used by MLM for decades, with little success.

So what are some of the "alternative facts" that had been used by MLM supporters?


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

MLM Veteran on answering MLM income question: Be evasive

Recently Ray Higdon, a self-professed high flyer in MLM and inspiration coach, posted on his blog "How to Answer 'How much Money Have you Made in Network Marketing". His answer is evasive and shocking, as it basically sidestepped the answer.

Here is a screenshot of Ray Higdon's blog, and copy of his text:


How To Answer “How Much Have You Made In Network Marketing?” 
This is a question that you most likely get when people feel like you’re maybe not as postured as you could be. Right? That maybe you’re not as confident as you could be, and people like to ding you with this question. “Well how much money have you made in network marketing?” 
Obviously, those of you who haven’t made any money in network marketing, you’re, “What do I say?” Right? My suggestion for this circumstance would be you can rely on your upline. You can rely on even trainers. You can use a little bit of my story, if you’d like. 
But my suggestion on answering that is to say: 
“Hey, you know what? I’m just getting started, but the people that I’m working with and getting trained by have made millions of dollars in network marketing. They’re showing me exactly what to do, so I’m fired up about it. I’m just getting started, but I’m excited that I’m learning from people who’ve proven it over the last X number of years. They’re helping me follow the exact footprints, exact steps that they took to make money, so I’m fired up about it.” 
That’s how I would answer it. By painting where you’re going. It’s very powerful.

Yep, you read it right: self-professed MLM coach telling everybody to NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION. Be evasive, blah blah about "getting training" instead.

Right, and my teacher was "Rich Dad", Bill Gates, and Buckminster Fuller.  Or I can rattle all the rich and famous people I'd like to emulate.

What a bunch of crock.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

One unexpected victim of Ponzi schemes: College Sports

Did you ever consider where are the ponzi scheme victims?  I mean, you usually think that the ponzi scheme victims are rich folks like Madoff victims, right?

You'd be very wrong.

ZeekRewards had an estimated 2.2 million victims all over the world.

TelexFree had almost TWO MILLION victims in US and Brazil

But here's a victim you'd never expect... College football.

You're probably exclaiming, "WTF? What does Ponzi scheme have anything to do with college football?"