Day after day after day, Pyramid Scheme Alert receives consumer inquiries about various multi-level marketing schemes, and the question is always the same: “What about this one?”
In the last few months alone, here are just some of the schemes that consumers asked about, and some of the schemes generating numerous inquiries:
“Your Promised Land,” a ‘faith based” MLM base selling “Divine Water” , 5Linx, 7 Figure School of Marketing, ACN, Agel, AIM, AlltheCashYouWant.com, Ambit Energy, Amway-Quixtar, Biometics International, Bioreadyrice.com, Biz Calling Card, Black Business Builders, Black Shopping Channel, BlastOff, Britt World Wide Group, Business in Motion (in Canada), Carbon Copy Marketing, Daily Income Maker, Ecoquest, Efusjon, Elite Activity (tu prosperiedad hoy), Enlyten, Escape International, Forever Living, Fortune High Tech Marketing, Freesitesignup.com, Gifting Schemes, Global Resorts Network (grn), Gold Mine international, Gotomeeting.com, GreenIrene, GuardIt Technologies, Healthy Chocolate, Herbalife, ICF WORLD HOMES, Ideal Health (part of the Trump Network), Ignite, Ijango, Instant Massive Cash Flow, Isagenix, Juice Plus, Liberty League, Local Ad Link, LTD (div. of Amway), Mannatech, MaxGL, Maximum Success, Melaleuca, Millionaire Club, My Great Opportunity, Monavie, National Chamber of Commerce, Nexagen, Nikken, Nuskin, Online Business Systems, Organo Gold, P 2 P” or “Carbon Credits, Pre-Paid Legal, Primerica, Process at Home, Quattro University, Quest International, Questnet, Quixtar, ReGenesis Marketing Group, Send Out Cards , Shop To Earn, Syntek Gas Additive, Tahitian Noni, Team, Team National, The Magicofmakingup.com, Travel Ventures International or TVI, Traverus, Trump Network, UFirst Financial or MMA, United Pro Media, Usana, Vemma/Verve Corp., Wealthy Affiliate University, World Financial Group (WFG), World Ventures (Travel Agency), www.allxclub.com, Xango, Xocai Chocolate, Yourhealth.com, YTB, ZAMU, Zoegetics or Zoe life, Zones, ZRII.
Sadly, few people get the big picture about multi-level marketing schemes. For the most part, MLMs are all the same scheme! From old established schemes like Amway to new startups like the Trump Network, these are the same flim flam in different clothing. One MLM may sell vitamins while another sells weight loss herbs. One sells legal services insurance and another fruit juice. But all of them, in reality, sell the exactly the same product: an endless chain income promise. MLMs are all in the “business opportunity” business, not “pills, potions and lotions.” And all of them sell the same “opportunity”, which is the chance to sell the “opportunity” to others who sell the same opportunity, forever and ever. Amen.
Here’s one obvious clue of their sameness: Most MLMs prohibit a consumer from joining different MLMs at the same time. Even though one scheme may sell juice and another vitamins, the schemes will legally prevent a consumer from being involved in both. Some even prohibit consumers, after they quit the scheme and move to another, from soliciting their downlines to join the new scheme for months or years afterward — even when their “downlines” may be their own family!
Why? Because the MLM companies know that while other MLMs are selling different products, they are in fact, bitter competitors for the real product – the income promise – which is exactly like the one they sell. The income promise is what they all sell, and their promises of income are always based on the same compensation plan: the endless recruitment chain.
So the MLM “industry” becomes a shell game. It keeps consumers guessing which shells have the fraud beans underneath and which ones have the “legitimate” beans. Consumers keep picking the frauds but still believe that most MLM shells have legitimate beans underneath. Why do they continue to believe most MLMs are good, even while they keep finding fraud beans?
For one thing, the MLMs say so. All the MLM warns consumers about others that they say are scams, but reassure them that they are not among those fraudulent MLMs. The media also tell consumers that “multi-level marketing” is legitimate” but then also always cautions them against the many scams within the MLM ranks. They never tell consumers which ones are the scams. More shell games.
Another reason people miss the big picture and keep picking MLM shells with fraud beans underneath: they are told that if the scheme sells a product, it is automatically legitimate! Only schemes that charge large upfront “fees” are scams, they are told, even by the likes of the Better Business Bureau. But, they are assured, if the MLM charges you for products and marketing materials, it’s legit. This is utterly false and dangerously misleading, but many reporters and BBB offices are merely repeating what the MLM industry tells them.
In fact, no MLMs charge large upfront fees any more. They now use a different way to get your money and transfer it to the the schemers at the top of the recruiting chain. Nearly all the money they get now, whether upfront or monthly, comes from the salespeople’s own purchases of “products” (overpriced) and “marketing materials” (worthless). Most consumers pay and pay and pay and don’t’ ever earn a dime in income but they believe it was all legitimate (even though they lost money) because they purchased products (at absurdly high prices and in order to qualify for commissions they never got), rather than paid “fees.” Here’s the MLM trick: the purchases are the infamous “fees” in disguise!
And then there is the sad and outrageous role of our Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which was corrupted by lobbyists and campaign contributions. In 2000, it virtually stopped investigating and prosecuting MLMs. This has given MLMs the aura of legality. MLMs now routinely use the very same defense that fraudster Bernard Madoff employed so successfully for years. When questioned about his scheme, he would say, “How could I be running a scam if the government is not even investigating me and has never prosecuted me?” So, too, MLMs use the lack of law enforcement as part of their false claim of legitimacy and the FTC’s inaction becomes a tool of the fraud.