Being scammed is your own lookout

Do you remember when “multilevel marketing” was all the rage among people who sold health and beauty products? On the surface, it looked harmless and profitable. What the participants didn’t know was that they were taking part in a Ponzi scheme.

According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, “a Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often promise to invest your money and generate high returns with little or no risk.”

The design of the business was to recruit people who would “buy into” the program by purchasing the products themselves and by inviting more participants. Early recruits stood to reap the benefits of their downline’s sales. The problem began showing itself among latter recruits because the dividends were no longer there. Indeed, this fraud usually worked to serve the founders and the early recruits.

Now, I don’t know if MLMs—some of which are just “legalized” pyramid schemes—are still popular these days, but what I do know is that a scam currently exists in the motoring industry, victimizing clueless car and motorcycle buyers. These scammers present themselves as legitimate “trading” companies, offering to help a customer purchase a car or a motorcycle at a much cheaper price. And all of it involves some seriously bad and ridiculous math.

Consider this offer concerning a motorcycle priced at P152,000. They will ask you to get a unit from a dealer—hence the unit is under your name—and then enroll in their “program.” Usually, the motorcycle is available with a 10% to 15% down payment, which you would settle with the dealer. To qualify for the fraudster’s program, you will have to give them the equivalent of a 50% down payment (or 40% or 35% of the amount, since the 10% or 15% was already given to the dealer).

Once admitted to the program, you will only need to pay P739 for 36 months (P26,604 for a three-year plan) or P1,108 for 24 months (P26,592 for a two-year plan). You don’t need to be good at mathematics to know that the figures do not make sense. How is the total amount much lower than the retail price when this is an installment deal we are talking about? Are they kidding?

No, they are not kidding. The joke is on the victim.

It dawned on me: Maybe the stupid equation is the scammers’ test to find out if a person is a smart individual or a potential victim. A person with common sense will give the proposal a hard pass, but a moron will proceed with the process. Our reader at Visor puts it this way: “It actually makes perfect sense. By knowing that their math is wrong, smart people are automatically filtered out of their potential victims. Their client list is therefore only composed of stupid, gullible people. Easy money.”

I agree 100%.

And yet some folks get pissed if you call victims “stupid” and “gullible.” I’ve been accused of “victim-blaming.” To these guys, I have news for you: Your sensitivity is precisely why scammers prosper in this country. I’d rather talk to possible victims than the scammers. Do you suppose scammers would care about sob stories and lectures about integrity? Nah, they will just form another group with a new name if you succeed to expose them.

The key is to get the word out about the scam. And yes, it won’t hurt to remind gullible people that they are stupid for falling for some bad math. Joke’s on you if your new vehicle gets repossessed just because you trusted a gang of swindlers.

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FILL YOUR TANK: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)

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