23 Apr

Top Earners in MLM Make Money Off the Backs of Others

Do you think it’s only the “bad” people who do bad things in multi-level marketing? Those who frontload new recruits, dial for dollars at the end of the month (i.e. get people to order products they don’t need), talk only about their highest commission check, lie about how profitable the MLM is for them, or hide the debt they incurred via their MLM?

Unfortunately, these problems are systemic in multi-level marketing. These are the things that must be done to get to the upper levels and to stay there. What about those “national sales directors” or “diamond executives” or “founders sapphires”??? They’ve just done more frontloading and general deception. They all lie. It is how things are done in MLM.

Listen to this former Mary Kay sales director, who was only a step away from becoming an national sales director when she walked away. On ABC’s 20/20, she explained how her “success” was at the expense of other women.

18 Apr

Protecting Yourself From Real Estate Fraud

No industry is immune to fraud schemes. Mortgage fraud and real estate fraud have been problems for a long time. Ups and downs in the real estate market can make developers desperate and may push them to engage in fraud in an attempt to keep their projects afloat.

Frauds related to real estate are often costly. The bigger the project, the more risk there is of fraud. What can those involved in real estate deals do to minimize their risk of fraud?

Use licensed professionals.
Whether we’re talking about a mortgage broker, a plumber, or a contractor, it is critical to do business with licensed professionals. The license itself doesn’t guarantee that the person is competent or ethical. But it provides at least a minimal level of confidence in the person or business. Consider the license to be a tool that weeds out the worst in the field.

Read More

08 Apr

Social Media Influencers and Fraud

Promoting products and services via social media sites like Instagram and Facebook is big business. If you have hundreds of thousands (or millions!) of followers on Instagram, someone is probably willing to pay you to have you promote their products. There are lots of eyeballs looking at your posts, and that’s worth money. And so we call you a social media influencer.

But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules about that.  If you’re promoting a product, it better be obvious to everyone that this is  the case.  More specifically, the FTC says:

In addition, the Guides say, if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed. For example, if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The same is usually true if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.

And naturally, the rules are being ignored by lots of people. It is estimated that only about 25% of influencers are actually following the rules when it comes to sponsored content.

If someone is being paid to promote a product or service on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media site, they’re required to disclose it. If they don’t, that is fraud. Concealing the fact that a post is essentially advertising is dishonest because people may think you’re simply talking about something you like rather than talking about something you’re paid to talk about. Consumers need to know that you’re making a PAID endorsement.

Truth in Advertising (TINA) has been going after abusers of the rules, filing complaints with the FTC about this behavior. Sean “Diddy” Combs was on the receiving end of one of these complaints, and quickly deleted the hundreds of posts in question.

Keep an eye out for social media posts that seem to casually mention a product or service the celebrity uses. Chances are, the post has been paid for by someone and it’s nothing more than advertising.

25 Mar

Internet Dating Scams

There’s no shortage of fraud surrounding dating these days, especially with online dating. It seems like such a great way to meet people with similar interests. Get on a dating site, they said. It’ll be fun they said. Until you find out the person you’ve been chatting with is nothing like they portrayed themselves to be.

Internet dating cost this woman $273,000.

A woman named Yin signed up for a six month membership with match.com. And she got catfished by someone using pictures of a U.S. Marine.  He told her his name was David Perez he was deployed in Afghanistan, and they exchanged a bunch of text messages.

They “fell in love” over text messages. He told her to keep things a secret because her friends would be jealous.

After 5 weeks, Yin’s online “love” asked her for money.  There was a big story about a secret mission in Afghanistan, a military attorney, a non-existent company in London, and a Chinese bank. She sent money totaling over $273,000. Read More

13 Mar

Spotting Red Flags of Investment Fraud (Ponzi Schemes)

There is no shortage of allegations of investment fraud since the stock market tanked in 2008.  Are there more investment scams occurring, or have market conditions just led to the discovery of more of these schemes? I’ll guess the latter, although no one really knows for sure.

The beauty of fraud is that so much of it goes undetected. Those involved in financial fraud actively conceal their schemes and their involvement, so it’s impossible for fraud investigators to know exactly how much fraud is happening. For example, perpetrators go so far as to pay others to participate in the scheme and cover up phony financials and non-existent promissory notes. This kind of concealment leads to more investors putting money in a scheme, and ultimately creates ever larger financial losses.

In the end, however, it doesn’t necessarily matter if we can put our finger on exactly how many of these investment schemes are out there. What really matters is being able to identify the hallmarks of such schemes so that investors can avoid them like the plague. Read More

27 Feb

Almost Everyone Loses Money in MLM

Don’t let your Facebook friends fool you: They’re not making money in the multi-level marketing company they keep pitching to you. And you won’t either. Multi-level marketing is not a business. More than 99% of participants in multi-level marketing (MLM) lose money. Companies like Mary Kay Cosmetics promote the “income opportunity,” but when the vast majority of MLM distributors say they lost money, the story changes to “they didn’t really want to make money,” or “they just did it for fun,” or “they didn’t try hard enough.”

The truth is that MLM is not a “business opportunity.” Almost everyone who participates is guaranteed to lose money. You can follow all the instructions, talk to everyone you know, invest money in the scam, and you will still lose money. Why? Because MLM is nothing but a pyramid scheme in which all the people at the bottom of the pyramid will lose money.

This video was published in 2016, but the information is still very relevant. It features victims of the Herbalife “business opportunity.” They put lots of money, time, and effort into their “businesses” and ended up losers.

The fact remains that all multi-level marketing companies are abusive systems which take money from the participants, offering them the (false) opportunity to earn money, knowing that they are virtually guaranteed to lose money.

16 Nov

GoFundMe Fraud (Again)

Things aren’t always as they seem. I’m often suspicious. It’s a hazard of being a fraud investigator. But sometimes we’re not even suspicious of the right things.

Take the situation involving the homeless man (Johnny Bobbit Jr.) who allegedly gave his last $20 to Kate McClure when she became stranded on a roadside with no gas in her car. She and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico started a GoFundMe that ultimately raised over $400,000.

And now Bobbit, McClure, and D’Amico are being charged with fraud because the whole thing was apparently made up. Police went over more than 60,000 text messages sent by McClure and D’Amico, and this one from McClure to a friend of hers has the punch line: Read More

23 May

Typical Red Flags of Ponzi Schemes

Last week the FBI posted an article on its site, A Pyramid of Lies, that told the story of the Gentry Ponzi scheme in rural Tennessee. Ponzi schemes are pretty easy to spot if you know the red flags. Even if you don’t know FOR SURE that an investment “opportunity” is a Ponzi scheme, if you see enough of the red flags, you should be smart enough to walk away. Better to be safe than sorry. Invest your money in something that isn’t showing these signs.

Jeffery Gentry stole more than $10 million with his investment scam. Let’s run through the red flags that popped up in the article: Read More