You are offered to invest money at incredibly high interest rates, promised guaranteed returns, and asked to actively bring in friends to the project. Be cautious, as a seemingly successful investment company may turn out to be a financial pyramid scheme. We explain how such organizations operate and how to recognize them.
What is a financial pyramid?
A financial pyramid is a deceptive scheme designed to trick people into believing they are making profitable investments. It operates by luring individuals to invest their money and then encouraging them to recruit others to join the pyramid. The promise of high returns and easy money attracts new participants, fueling the growth of the pyramid. However, only those at the top of the pyramid, the early participants or organizers, actually benefit from the scheme.
The concept of “the top wins, the bottom loses” was prevalent in the past, particularly during the 90s. Some individuals may claim to have profited from such schemes back then, but it doesn’t mean it’s a viable or ethical approach to pursue today. The landscape has changed, and these types of schemes no longer work as effectively. It’s important to understand that attempting to engage in financial pyramids nowadays is likely to result in financial loss and legal consequences.
Modern pyramid schemes operate swiftly and aggressively. They rely on persuasive advertising tactics to entice unsuspecting individuals who are seeking quick and easy money. Once the organizers have collected a significant amount of funds, they vanish, leaving the deceived investors empty-handed. They often resurface in new locations, launching new investment projects, until they are eventually caught and face legal consequences for their actions.
The number of financial pyramid schemes varies from year to year, but they never completely disappear. These schemes typically promise high returns or quick profits, and they gain people’s trust by offering enticing opportunities. However, they are unsustainable and eventually collapse, leaving many investors with substantial financial losses. It is important for individuals to be cautious and exercise due diligence when it comes to investing to avoid falling victim to such fraudulent schemes.
Types of financial pyramids
A financial pyramid scheme, also known as a Ponzi scheme, operates by promising high returns to participants based on recruiting new investors into the scheme. The organizers of the pyramid may not hide the true nature of the scheme and convincingly explain its mechanism while demonstrating logical calculations. They often emphasize the opportunities presented by the internet for attracting new partners, claiming that the business is even more successful today than in the 90s due to the virtual space. They urge people to join the pyramid as one of the first participants, promising the potential to earn millions.
Some fraudsters, not all of them honest (as they are fraudsters), do not explicitly refer to their activities as a financial pyramid scheme. Instead, they position themselves as investment enterprises and come up with catchy and attractive names like promising businesses, high-tech companies, or innovative projects. They offer shares, bonds, cryptocurrencies, real estate, and make promises about super-profitable construction, agriculture, gold mining, or IT startups. They encourage people to invest in highly efficient production (although it’s often unclear what exactly that means). There are numerous variations. The prospects of collaborating with such successful individuals can be enticing and may lead people to fall for their schemes.
Fraudsters are inventive and can disguise themselves under different forms of organizations, such as management companies, consumer cooperatives, or bookmaking companies. They may not always promise monetary payouts explicitly. For example, they may offer discounted cruises, cashback for purchasing gold jewelry, or even promise to repay your debts if you bring other debtors to them.
More and more pyramid schemes exist solely as internet projects, but some combine online promotion with personal interaction with potential investors. Pyramid builders may attract people through flashy advertisements, create an illusion of credibility in beautiful offices, or lure them into thematic social media groups.
It can sometimes be challenging to discern whether you are dealing with a legitimate company or a financial “bubble.” It’s important to exercise caution and conduct thorough research before getting involved in any investment opportunity to avoid falling victim to fraudulent schemes.
How to recognize a financial pyramid?
There are several signs that can help you identify pyramid scheme builders:
- Promising high returns without any risk: The organization actively advertises and publicly promises unusually high profits that exceed market levels. Such claims are prohibited in the financial market. Moreover, the income calculation scheme is often complex and unclear, presented through complicated formulas with numerous variables, designed to confuse you. They assure you that there are no risks involved. However, in reality, any investment carries some level of risk, and there are no guaranteed returns.
- Requesting you to bring in new clients: They promise to pay you a percentage of the investments made by each new participant you bring in. This is a strategy employed by criminals to quickly involve as many people as possible in their scam, collect money from them, and then disappear.
- Lack of investment confirmation: They show you only beautiful presentations but don’t allow you to examine any financial documents. They ask you to send money not to the account specified in the contract with the company but to another legal entity. Sometimes they request transfers to a bank card or through a specific person’s phone number, or ask you to deposit cash without providing any receipts or payment orders. As a result, you won’t be able to prove that you made any investments.
- Absence of contact information on the company’s website: There are no phone numbers, email addresses, or physical addresses provided. You can only request a callback, chat with an operator, or communicate through a messaging app. Genuine companies do not hide their contact information, while scammers tend to conceal their identities. In case of any problems, neither you nor the police will be able to locate the fraudsters.
If you notice at least one of these signs, it is essential to seriously reconsider who you are dealing with.