Sunday, May 22, 2016

Scam Psychology: Luck Blindness, or why lucky people see it as skill, not luck

Success is dependent on many different factors, but it can usually be summarized as at the right place, at the right time, with the right training to spot the opportunity, and have enough resources to call upon to take advantage of the opportunity. 
It should be readily obvious that rich people have a better chance at success because they started out with better starting positions. Donald Trump was practically born with a silver spoon (his father was a real estate tycoon). Conversely, poor people can't succeed if they don't find the right connections to make their talent known, no matter how hard working they are.

Outliers (book)
Outliers (book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the book "Outliers", Malcolm Gladwell reported that a good portion of professional hockey players found success due to their birthmonth, not solely via their talent. Why? If they were born in January, an arbitrary line used by the youth hockey leagues to divide up the years, they would enjoy physical advantage over the other kids who were born later in the year (generally speaking, of course) but still in the same league. And this physical advantage would lead to success, which would lead to them developing a taste for hockey, and eventually, into a pro career. Of course they trained hard, and they got some physical skills, but luck of having been born in month of January played a part in their success... They may not be aware of it, but that doesn't mean it didn't affect them.

Yet when you ask successful people how did they succeed, they will rarely if EVER mention luck. And in fact, some get downright offended if you try to bring up the role of luck in their success. This known as the "luck blindness" cognitive bias.

A few years ago Cornell economist Robert Frank wrote an opinion column for New York Times about luck and fairness, and for that he was invited on the air by Fox Business host Stuart Varney to talk about it. Varney opened the show by introducing Frank, then immediately jumped down Frank's throat: "Do you know how insulting that was, when I read that? I came to America with nothing 35 year sago. I've made something of myself, I think through hard work, talent, and risk-taking, and you're going to write in the New York Times that this is luck."  As you can imagine, it didn't go well for the rest of the interview.

Many people can look past their luck blindness though. Warren Buffet readily admits that he had won the 'genetic lottery' to have been born in the US to a loving family. And in a way, "gratefulness" (thanking God and the universe) is a way to acknowledge luck played a role.

How Luck Blindness Can Mislead You

Scammers know luck blindness is a button they can push to make you behave, along with sunk cost fallacy, hindsight bias, IKEA effect, and so on. By making you believe you are on your way to success, scammers will continue to take money from you, and you'll be happy doing so, because you believe you have learned skills, when it was either luck, or "arranged" success.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bad Argument: MLM Strawman Arguments Labelled as Mythbusting

A lot of so-called MLM "coaches" write articles to drum up business and recruit downlines, and they have to deal with, what they perceive as "undue criticism" of MLM. However, what they often ended up doing is defeat strawman arguments.

Recently I came across a certain article titled "6 Biggest Myths about MLM -- A Must Read" by Nathan Sloan posted on Network Marketing HQ dot co dot uk.  (Interesting, the URL says 7, so he seem to have lost one in the edit), and it served as a prime example of how MLMers argue... broad insinuations, strawman, this guy used them all.

His myth #1: Pyramid structures are bad

Pyramid SCHEMES are bad. Pyramid structure or pyramid-shaped organizations are not necessarily bad. If a MLMer, even a noob, can't explain the difference between a pyramid structure and a pyramid SCHEME, s/he is uneducated in the MLM fundamentals and his/her upline should be ashamed.

However, instead of explaining this fundamental difference, Mr. Sloan instead pointed out that pyramid structures surrounds us. Basically, he failed to identify the real problem, and instead, went to equivocation fallacy instead. Indeed, this is a common "MLM defense" tactic, present a strawman equivocation with "safe" structures.

Verdict: strawman myth

Solution: Mr. Sloan should concentrate on differentiating pyramid SCHEME vs. pyramid organization. Pyramid scheme is fraud. Pyramid organization is just a shape.

His myth #2: MLM is a Scam

Is MLM a scam? Sloan's explanation is that pyramid schemes are illegal, MLM is not. However, instead of explaining the difference between MLM and pyramid scheme, he simply quoted an OUTDATED definition he copied from "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing" without attribution. And yes, I have this book on my bookshelf. That's how I recognized it. It was published more than 10 years ago (2005).

For the record, MLM in its current form was created in 1979 when Amway settled with American Federal Trade Commission to institute several reforms (today known as the "Amway Safeguard Rules") in order to keep on operating. The short of it is, the difference between MLM and pyramid scheme is MLM NEVER pays on recruitment (but there are ways to disguise the payment). This is what Sloan failed to address.

However, Sloan then went on to knock down another strawman. He claimed that any one who said MLM is a scam are lying to cover up their laziness and failure. This is in clear contrast of several pyramid schemes that presented themselves as MLM that were shut down. FHTM (shut down 2013) and Vemma (shut down 2015) are just some recent examples. By ignoring a prime example where a scam MLM did operate, Sloan is guilty of lying by omission AND a strawman, not to mention victim-blaming.

Verdict: strawman fallacy, lying by omission (or ignorance), plagiarism, unsupported argument (did not explain difference between pyramid scheme and MLM)

Solution: Sloan should acknowledge that many MLMs are done fraudulently, and attempt to explain the real LEGAL differences why MLM is not a pyramid scheme. Simply quoting a definition is not defense without explaining how that applies to your defense.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Another article of how WCM got smashed in China (AGAIN), translated

Previously #MLMskeptic translated the article from about how WCM got smashed. This time we're translating a different article of the same event, with additional details.

海归硕士开空壳公司 以“虚拟货币”连环套诈骗数亿

Master Degree Open Shell Companies, "Cryptocurrency" Scammed Hundreds of Millions


In May 2015, Zhaoqing City, Dinghu Branch, Economic Investigation Unit (EIU from now on), in Guangdong province received report from citizen Xie, who claimed that he was fooled into believe a Ms. Liang and purchased several Wantong Miracle  (WM from now on) Suites for 26000 RMB, received the WM card, and was supposed to receive daily profit of 32 USD, but so far received nothing, and there's no sign of his original investment.


With economic investigation unit of three cities: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhaoqing cooperating, they revealed a huge illegal securities crime, that never was approved or licensed by authorities, and uses buzzwords such as protoshare investment product, e-commerce, and so on, with promises of huge profits.


Recently, Shenzhen EIU told Penpai News that this scam has victims in 28 provinces, 147 jurisdictions, and over 5800 victims, with amount of scam in the hundreds of millions of RMB. Investigation is ongoing.

Police investigator said in May 2013, WM series of securities was established by Mr. Xu, president of some investment bank holding group, a Mr. Liu, CEO, an executive director Mr. Xu something Zhong, and a "financial scholar" Mr. Sun

Belief in WM Investment Profit, Ensnared in Trap


Ms. Chen of Changsha, Hunan province, was an investment in WM. In September 2013, a friend Chen (something) Fang told her that this Wantong (WT from now on) company released a series of WM products, promised huge profits if invested. Asked her to look into it.


Later, Ms. Chen searched the boss of Wantong, a Mr. Xu online. "Xu, online, is an angel investor, CEO of an investment bank, helped 7 Chinese companies get listed in foreign exchanges."


Ms. Chen believed all these to be true, and joined a WM related QQ Chat group, and learned of a recruiting meeting held by Wantong in Shenzhen coming in November 2013. Unable to resist, she went to Shenzhen to attend the meeting.


Based on memory, there were hundreds of people there. Wantong's executive direct, Mr. Zhou, promised the sun and the moon, described a bright future, and answered all of the questions from the attendants.


"If I invest 13000, I can profit 100 per day, that's very high profit." Not long after the meet, Ms. Chen bought in with 39000 RMB and bought three of the WM suite called "WCM705", at $1999 USD each.


Ms. Chen explained that WM suite has 5 amounts: $399, $799, $999, $1599, and $1999. Daily profit is dependent on the amount invested. For the $1999 suite, daily share is 16 E-points, worth 16 USD.


After the purchase of these suites, Ms. Chen registered in WM website, and can view her account and accumulated e-points, and even cash out at the beginning, but soon, cashing out became a problem.


"First it was delays, then later all cashing out was stopped. By April 2014, the entire website is gone." Ms. Chen asked her friend's upline, a Mr. Wang (something) Po, but he had no explanation.


In May 2015, Ms. Chen hard that Mr. Xu has established a new company in Shenzhen called WanYiTong (WYT from now on), and will do a promo event at a 5-star hotel. She went to check it out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: WCM777 smashed AGAIN in China, is Phil Ming Xu in custody? spotted a news in ShanghaiDaily that a Mr. Xu of "World Capital Market" was arrested by Chinese police for pyramid scheme in China. It appears that Phil Ming Xu of WCM777 has moved back to China and restarted his scam which collapsed in 2014 in the US. Below is a bilingual version of the news, with English version provided by me.

会员遍布28省 涉案金额数亿
Members spread across 28 provinces, amount into hundreds of millions

Wantong Miracle suspected of illegal securities, being investigated

发布时间:2016-05-15 20:42 星期日   来源:法制日报——法制网
Posted: May 15 2016 Sunday 20:42     Source:,cn

法制网记者 李想  Reporting for LegalDaily Xiang Li


On May 27, 2015, Ms. Zhou Hua (pseudonym) who resided in Guandong, reported to the local Police Economic Crime Detachment to report that she had been defrauded. The frustrated Ms. Zhou told police that she trusted others and invested in "Wantong Miracle Social Capital Cloud Computing Platform", and not only did not get any promised profit, the 26000 investment is "gone with the wind".


Police followed the leads, and revealed this humongous illegal securities crime syndicate that used various new concepts such as "protoshare money management", "e-commerce" to disguise itself. Based on investigation, this crime involved over 5800 Wantong Card members, spread across 28 different provinces (in China), involving hundreds of millions in RMB

A exquisite facade to deceive the masses


According to police, in January 2014, Ms. Zhou believed suspects Mr. Liang and Mr. Chen, and purchased two of the Wantong Miracle "WCM705" suite at cost of $1999 each. Based on the then published rate of 6.5 RMB to 1 dollar that's about 13000 RMB. This would give the investor 1999 "points". According to the then promises, she can get 16 USD every day as profit share, and can do it 100 times. 


Legal Daily reporter searched the Internet about "Wantong Miracle", and found there were many people asking online is Wantong Miracle" legal. So what sort of company is Wantong Miracle? 


May 6th (2016), in Shenzhen 2nd detention center, reporter met the suspect Mr. Xu, who had been arrested. Mr. Xu claimed, after graduating from university he worked as producer in media, then transferred to finance. 


According to Zhang Zhaohui, deputy chief, economic investigation detachment, Zhaoqing Public Security, Wantong Miracle's various products was introduced to China in May 2013, by a Mr. Xu (supposedly some "investment bank holding group CEO") and others. Xu, et al, claimed that "Wantong Miracle" is a social capital revolution, using Internet, cloud computing, and world retail discount system, to provide "capital magnification" to global customers. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Scam Spotting: too-good job offer, fake website, and Bitcoins

A redditor recently posted on /r/scams about a too-good-to-be-true job offer:
Hi all, I was hoping you could help me figure if this job offer is a scam. So I received an email saying that I had applied for customer service representative at another company, that was an agency they work with (note I did apply to this), and that they believe me to be better suited for a better job. The HR rep who contacted me said she's confident I stand a chance, and so she wants to forward my application to the hiring manager. The company is currently based on switzerland, and they are opening an office in my area (Toronto Canada) on May 30th. All she requested was that I fill out the employment application. There was nothing weird about the application, it asked for my usual contact info and two work references. No sin number or anything private, or that they couldn't get off my resume. The reason I'm weirded out is because the pay is substantial (for reference it's +20/hr and i'm still in school) and they mentioned the company works with bitcoin. The company name is Trimension Capital Holding. Does anybody have any experience that they'd be willing to share on if this is a scam or not?
This already has a couple red flags

  • Based in Switzerland, but opening an office in Toronto
  • Over $20 per hour for someone not yet out of school
  • Encouraged to apply even if not certain qualified (to do what, exactly?)
  • It involves "Bitcoins"
But let's track this down all the way. If you search for "Trimension Capital" on Google, you will get back a Trimension Capital GmbH at Baarerstrasse 135, 6301 Zug, Switzerland. So far, it matches. 

My first link took me to profile fo the company, and we larned that company was founded in 2012 as "Pinewood Capital GmbH", changed name to "Trimension Capital GmbH" in 2013, and changed to "Trimension Capital Holding GmbH" in 2014. It's headed by Thomas Bieri. Under "contact" it shows website as says the website should be

Next couple links goes to   NO DASH!!!!!!!

Something is very fishy here. Let's check DNS at WHO.IS

Friday, May 13, 2016

Scam Tactics: False citing of legislation or certification authority

Scams, in order to claim false legitimacy, will cite laws, regulations, and licenses to sound official, when they are grossly exaggerating the truth, or are outright lying.

Below we will discuss four example of such outrageous fraudulent behavior, and how you can see through such deception with just Google and some sense of skepticism.

Gemcoin, USFIA, and AB129

USFIA was an alleged 32 million ponzi scheme shut down by SEC on September 29, 2015, having been previously chased out of China in 2014 by Chinese authorities. Two of the perps were arrested in Thailand in 2014 through China's Operation Foxhunt extradition program and extradited with other perps back to China, only to see the scheme restart in the US under the same US leader Steve Chen.

When it was running at full steam their marketing material claimed that Gemcoin, their supposed altcoin was the first cryptocurrency authorized by California bill AB129.

Gemcoin believers repeating claims that Gemcoin was first cryptocurrency authorized by
California bill AB129 (2014). It was complete bull****, of course. Every bit of Steve Chen's assets
had been counted and it came out to only 20 or so million. "50 billion"? Hilarious. 
The problem is AB129 said no such thing. The full text of AB129 is easily Google-able.It is only a single sentence.  It simply says that from here on California's restriction (that all transactions must be done with US dollars) is rescinded.  Gemcoin was not mentioned or referenced.

Yet the Gemcoin believers did not question the claim. They simply accepted the extraordinary claim as true. And they put in money for something "backed by amber".

There was no amber or amber mine. And now their money is lost or tied up in an international ponzi scheme. At least report, the receiver that took over the company can only locate about 20 million of the 32+ million believed to be involved. A big amount was sent overseas to China and Singapore.

But at least USFIA scam referenced a real law. The next scammer simply made up an agency that doesn't exist.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How to be an online marketing idiot: arbitrary DMCA takedown notices and SLAPP

English: Very poor sketch of a desired icon fo...
English: Very poor sketch of a desired icon for DMCA takedown notices on articles, emphasizing Wikimedia's submission... created for conversation at Commons:Village pump#DMCA takedown templates and material. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It seems some people have NO concept of copyright, and think that issue random threats to sue is somehow a valid tactic in "reputation management". Such idiots should never be allowed to do marketing online, but this is a democracy, with freedom to do all sorts of things, including making a total fool of oneself.

Recently, Techdirt, a tech news website, highlighted a particular idiotic DMCA takedown notice. The story basically goes like this. in 2015, Techdirt writer Tim Cushing put together a list of "stupid DMCA takedown requests" because, well, they are stupid, like DMCA takedown notice to Google... about images cached on Bing (which belongs to Microsoft, not Google), or DMCA takedown on news coverage about one's crimes by self-publishing a book about it, and so on and so forth.

One of these... online marketing idiots, instead of acknowledging mea culpa, doubled down and issued a DMCA request to Techdirt claiming their copyright were violated because Techdirt used a couple of the images offered by the company, called Andromedical, as example, complete with Andromedical's prominent watermark. Oh, and the same copy apparently posted random comments online claiming Techdirt is owned by some company nobody ever heard of, is a patent troll, claiming various bogus misdeeds by the writer, and more. It's a basic slander campaign... all because they can't admit they were idiots.

The idea that TechDirt, a news website, can be liable for copyright violation for "covering" Andromedical (whose product is a penis pump, named... AndroPenis (tm), really imaginative, guy) as a news item is simply hilarious. It's even MORE hilarious that Andromedical's complaint also claimed that Techdirt is a "counterfeiting operation" and the violation is being reported "to INTERPOL".

The bottom line is actually quite clear: "we don't like what you say about us, STFU!"

But the world doesn't work like that. There are exceptions to copyright called "fair use", and using the company logo and publicly available photos provided as promotional material by the company to illustrate the company, and in no way asserts being the company, is obviously fair use.  If you put info out in the public, you can't control what people do with it, be it positive or negative.

Yet some scams and suspect schemes are quite fond of using these bogus copyright and/or trademark claims as well as threat to sue or outright lawsuits in hopes of silencing critics as a part of their "reputation management" strategy.