Wednesday, December 14, 2016

MLM Basics: Why is MLM so... addicting?

Many people who are NOT in MLM wonder WHY MLM seems to be so addicting to its participants, and even as members lose money month after month. After all, an "entrepreneur" is supposed to be making money, right?

MLMSkeptic has studied the issues, and it is clear that the participants are not merely valuing the economic benefits from MLM (for there is minimal evidence of such enrichment except for a few near the top), but actually SOCIAL and MENTAL benefits that came with the MLM participation. It is the social and mental benefits, not the financial, that keeps the members in despite their minimal economic gains.

Those social and mental benefits can be divided roughly into three types:
  • Sense of belonging (family and group dynamic)
  • Sense of being something greater than oneself
  • Sense of accomplishment  (recognition)
Let's discuss each one.

Sense of belonging (family and group dynamic)

Many of the articles that tout the benefits of MLM emphasize the camaraderie of the group and team. There are even articles that tout "come for the opportunity; stay for the relationship".

One such leader asked the question:
Have Your “Why” Established. This is very important. This is your major driving force, your reason WHY you decided to make a move and become a network marketer. It could be family, financial freedom or even time freedom.  
It's not an accident that the author talk about family being a driving force, but have you ever wondered which family did he mean?

He probably doesn't mean YOUR family. Not your wife/husband/partner, not your father/mother, not your children.

He probably means your SALES/NETWORK family: your upline, your downlines, your lateral marketing folks.

But doublespeak is a standard tactic in unethical network marketing.

So how do you know if your specific network marketing is ethical or not? You don't.

There were plenty of examples where families have been torn apart because half of the partnership saw and recognized the hidden dangers, but the other half was already in too deep to see the forest for the trees. It will take a huge jolt for someone to recognize the threat to one's family from cultish-MLMs and some just sank deeper and deeper.

One example was when a wife, who's in MLM was talking with her MLM female friends, and the topic drifted to the husband, who was not in MLM.  One of the so-called female friends suddenly suggested that the husband is such a loser for not joining the MLM and the wife should leave that loser of a husband. Clearly, the husband is what's holding the wife back from true success. Wife was shocked into silence. WHICH does she value more... her family (husband and children)... or her personal success for a few dollars? And what sort of people are around her that would suggest NOT placing her family first?

Friday, November 11, 2016

MLM Basics: Numbers Needed To Profit

One of the hardest things to analyze in a MLM is "How Much Money Will I Make".

The stupid ones recite the slogan: "As much as you want!"

The weasel ones add a disclaimer, "As much as you want (don't blame us if you fail)"

The realistic ones don't feed you BS, "Your success is dependent on your ability to sell, your ability to form a sales team, your effort and willingness to dedicate yourself and a whole lot of luck."

But none of them will be able to quote you a number, except what *they* have personally earned, or what someone in their team earned. And that doesn't say whether they do this every pay period, or where did this money come from: "personal volume" (retail sales by oneself), or commission from "group volume" (i.e. team total sales volume)

Amway is one of the few companies that even calculates what average member earn via retail.

The average monthly Gross Income for "active" IBOs was USD $183 (in the US) / CAD $206 (in Canada) in 2014. 
53% of IBOs in the US (and 49% of IBOs in Canada) were considered "active" (in 2014)
source: Achieve Magazine, published by Amway, August 2014 issue, from AchieveMagazine website
Amway calculate "gross income" from retail sales, minus the cost of the goods sold, which basically means they ASSUMED that product purchased by the IBO (independent business owner, i.e. participant) will be sold at MSRP and thus profit can be calculated. While they did not include any commissions (most MLMs report ONLY commissions), it also (and quite understandably) did not attempt to estimate business expenses, such as time and effort to attend meetings, demonstrations, seminars and events, and so on.

Apology for lack of updates

Apology to followers of this blog. I went off to do some other things but rest assured, this blog is NOT being abandoned.

I am working on a couple posts right now, I should have something with in 24 hours, and you should look forward to at least weekly updates from here on.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bad Argument: Flip the Burden of Proof

One of the most often tactics used by bad arguers is refuse to prove anything, even when you prompt them "where's the proof?"  Instead, they claim it is YOUR responsibility to give THEM proof that they're right.

Hilarious, right? Yet that's exactly what happened here.

K.S. : So provide evidence to prove him (Dave Ramsey) wrong. Where is it?

C.M. : Thousands of millionaires

K.S. : Citing please, or is that you just spitballing?

C.M. : Use Google, it's easy. do not be lazy.

K.S. : Sorry, telling people to "Google It" is not a valid answer to "citings please". You claimed it, so it is your job to provide evidence to support what YOU wrote. So it is YOU being lazy. Try again.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Bad Argument: Citing Celebrity Endorsement as Evidence despite Celebrities said Some of the Craziest Things

It is a fact that celebrities have said some of the kookiest stuff in public including
There are even dedicated lists of celebrities idiotic comments. Yet celebrity endorsement remains one of the top forms of advertising. Indeed, MLM has repeatedly used celebrity endorsements. Back when Vemma was a thing, Vemma followers have repeated cited association with Dr. Oz, mainly because B K Boreyko, Vemma's founder, had once said it is Dr. Oz's "favorite fatigue fighter." The real truth is Dr. Oz never endorsed Vemma... The linkback is a courtesy because Boreyko is on the board of one of Dr. Oz's charities.  In other MLMs, Both Donald Trump and Ben Carson (candidates for 2016 Presidential Campaign) have had dealings with MLM (ACN and Mannatech respectively).

SIDENOTE: Trump was quoted by Wall Street Journal, "I (Trump) know nothing about the company (ACN) other than the people who run the company, I’m not familiar with what they (ACN) do or how they go about doing it, and I make that clear in my speeches." A ringing endorsement indeed, despite Trump pocketing millions in speaking fees from ACN events. 

MLM itself often tout their "sales leaders" as minor celebrities, complete with big pageantry of award ceremonies and such.  As an example, Mary Kay is well known for its huge spectacles which are deceptively called "seminars" where new sales rep who reach some minimum goal are showered with praise from the crowd. It is very intoxicating and "inspiring".

Mary Kay convention, all the "ruby" folks getting recognized (date unknown)
But what makes celebrities seem to goof up more often? This can't really be merely explained by the spotlight effect, i.e. anything celebrity said is repeated ad infinitum, while a regular person's kook can often be overlooked. It is a factor, but it can't be all that there is.

Other factors at work includes:
  • Luck blindness / Survivorship Bias
  • Dunning-Kruger effect
  • Self-Centered bias
  • Positive reinforcement / confirmation bias / Echo chamber effect

Friday, September 16, 2016

Scam Tactics: Whip Up Fear, Provide "Solution", Take Your Money under false pretense

A lot of so-called "entrepreneurs" (read: MLM noobs) are so fond of repeating marketing speech they don't ever stop and wonder WHY are they doing what they're doing, and whether it makes any sense. One of which is the "mystery tease", where there's practically NO public info about the company, or the promoter is trying to keep things VERY VERY vague. You pretty much have to join, get the info, then consider canceling in order to get ANY information on the company.

When questioned why does the company operate this way, the rep, either stammer "so don't join" or retorts with insults such as "you're obviously not an entrepreneur".  The implication for both is "if you want to know about the company before you join, you're obviously NOT ready to join."

Isn't that just faith, i.e. "I am willing to join without knowing what I am joining"?  Does that even make sense? 

But this just reminded me of the infamous diamond scams during the late 1970's in the US. 

The scam is simple... The sellers claim to be sourcing diamonds and are offering them as investment instruments to folks who are afraid of the stock market fluctuations. The concept is simple: "everybody loves diamonds", "it only appreciates because supply is strictly controlled by a monopoly", "all diamonds are sealed with certificate guaranteeing their quality", and so on. And all of these statements are even... true. 

Sufficiently convinced, the buyer sent off a check for thousands, and in a week or so, he gets diamonds... sealed in plastic with the certificate guaranteeing their quality... Except for the caveat: the quality is only guaranteed if the plastic is NOT broken. I.e. any attempt to have it appraised means it's no longer guaranteed. And many customers did break the seal only to find the diamonds are inferior or even worthless quality. It was bad enough that New York's Attorney General has to establish a "Diamond Task Force" just to process the hundreds of complaints of fraud.

This is related to the modern "shrink-wrap contract", i.e. "if you break the seal, you accept the licensing terms", usually for software. And it's in a legal gray area. 

But these diamond hawksters also book hotel or resort ballrooms and hold "diamond investment seminars" where they prey upon fear of the audience ("at this inflation, your stocks and bonds are not keeping up"), and esp. seniors ("if you don't have some easily liquidated assets like diamonds, your kids can seize your cash assets and ship you off to a nursing home")

Doesn't that just reminds you of the modern equivalent? 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Scam Psychology: The "Hard Work" Narrative vs. the Luck Factor

The words "hard work" often appears in the MLM supporter's arguments or narrative trying to discredit their "opponents". Any one who failed can be explained away as "they didn't work hard enough".

The problem is technology has shrunk the required competence in skills that makes a difference. It has "leveled the playing field", so luck now plays a much larger factor than any one realizes.

This is total anathema to network marketing / MLM, whichever name they choose to go by. Indeed, luck and success are almost opposites in the MLM mindset. Those who are successful and "self-made" never want to talk about luck, or even want to HEAR about luck.  This is a cognitive bias known as luck blindness. And MLM feeds into the self-made narrative directly. Most MLM pitches involves "entrepreneurial spirit" "be your own boss" "get away from the J.O.B. (just over broke)" and so on. These people are taught that any success they had is due to their "hard work" and the brilliance of the system (despite the same system, in another breath, claimed "anyone can do it")

This sort of mentality leads to some truly amazing (in a slow train wreck sort of way) claims. One of such claim is how some net winners in the ZeekRewards ponzi scheme are claiming they provided "value" to the business, and thus they are entitled to their ill-gotten gains and thus not have to hand them back to the receiver to be redistributed to the victims.

Let's forget for a moment that ZeekRewards ponzi scheme head Paul Burks was just judged guilty on all four counts in July 2016. How did these ZeekRewards Ponzi net winners claim they are working hard and thus entitled to be compensated, according to their brief, worth $50K to 80K a year? They are pasting 10 short text ads per day on anywhere they can get away with it (i.e. "spamming"). For the record, while they are required to copy the URL where they posted the ads back to ZeekRewards for "verification", no such verification was ever done. In other words, they don't even have to be done. Their work were worthless. It can be done in minutes. For this simple work, they they claim such to be worth 50-80K a year...

Right, and pigs can fly.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Scam Psychology: Cognitive Biases that leads to bad money decisions

Recently Lifehacker posted an article about cognitive biases that lead to bad money decisions. They are, obviously, perfect described the mindset of an MLMer.  Indeed, MLMskeptic here has covered most of them.

Sunk-Cost Fallacy -- if you have put money and effort in, you would not want to give up. This is also related to "Ikea Effect".

Choice-Supportive Bias -- also known as post-hoc rationalization, you made an impulsive decision NOT supported by logic, and later you tried to come up with reasons why you made that impulsive decision.  You will even rewrite your history and memory to somehow "prove" that you made the right decisions.

Anchoring Bias -- you rely too heavily on the FIRST piece of information and let that information affect your subsequent decisions, even of that first info is outrageous or wrong. Even when you are shown proof that the initial information is wrong, you fail to correct yourself and your thought process.

Bandwagon Effect -- "everybody else did it" somehow proves that it's logical, even when scams can have millions of victims. Popularity does not prove veracity or truth.

Status Quo Bias -- If you prefer the things the way they are, even though it's bad for you, you're definitely affected. Scam victims often refuse to take action to protect themselves because they believe they cannot be in a scam, and they want to "wait things out" even as the scam continue to take their money and provide one excuse after another.

But go read that article.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cognitive Bias: Sunk Cost Fallacy

Answer this following question to yourself, truthfully please. Remember, it's for you and you alone. Only you would know the answer.

Q: Do you make rational decisions based on the best-estimate future value of objects, investments, and experience? 

Your answer to yourself is probably going to be: Yes, of course.

You are wrong. In reality, your decisions are based on your EMOTIONAL investment you already made and accumulated, and the more you invest, the less likely you can let it go. 

This is a cognitive bias known as "sunk cost fallacy".  In short, you are basing your decision on what has been invested, rather than what it's worth NOW (or in the future).

And it's very simple to make you feel you've invested time and effort... by making you do trivial tasks that amounts of zero importance. Zookeepers (and pet owners) know this principle well... it's called "contra-freeloading".

Contrafreeloading is a term coined in 1963 by animal psychologist Glen Jensen, who created an experiment where 200 albino rats were given a choice: unlimited food pellets in little bowl, or a mechanism where they have to learn to press a lever to release a food pellet. Logically, rats should simply gorge on the effortless food and never touch the lever. However, the opposite happened... rats actually prefer the food source where they had to press a lever, by a large margin. This was since repeated in gerbils, mice, birds, fish, monkeys, chimps... and more. (The only exception is the domestic cat). In short, animals prefer doing a little work (but not too much) for their food, rather than just take a handout.

A great example of contra-freeloading in a scam is ZeekRewards ponzi scheme (as accused by SEC and USSS), an $850 million scheme will soon go to trial. In ZeekRewards, one supposedly buy bids in the Zeekler penny auction, give away the bids to random strangers as promotion, and gets rewarded with certain amount of daily profit based on the bids purchased for the next 90 days. One also needs to post ads to random places on the Internet, and then post the URL on the ZeekRewards website as "verification" to be rewarded. In reality the vast majority of the bids were never used (i.e. the participants simply put money into the system) and expect daily "profit share" of up to 1.8% of the money they put in. The daily posting of ads were never tracked and verified, and indeed some people started a blog just to post ads... that nobody will ever read or see. It's rather obvious, in hindsight, that the "posting the ad" must be contrafreeloading... to make the participant feel they "worked" for and "earned" their share of "profit" amounting to as high as 1.8% DAILY, when the trivial task can literally be done in a few minutes, and be outsourced to some kids for pennies a day.

Yet when all these facts were pointed out to the ZeekRewards affiliates, their answers often are "you work for a competitor", "you work for the 1% to oppress us", "why don't you want us to succeed", and so on. After Zeek was shut down, several members even outright claimed "there were no victims until the government came along."

Curt Miller, on FB, soon after Zeek was closed by USSS and SEC, claiming that
"there were no victims (in ZeekRewards) until the government came along". 

They are so emotionally (and financially) invested into ZeekRewards, they can longer think rationally and see reason, even when there is NO REASON to continue to behave irrationally.

It is illogical to continue to support an alleged scam AFTER the owner made a plea deal with the government. However, hundreds of people donated money to a organization that promised to put the money toward "defending" ZeekRewards from the SEC. The owner of such organization was later jailed for defrauding the US government in an unrelated matter. The so-called defense ended up being an attorney who attended the receivership meetings, and filed several motions that was denied. He accomplished nothing useful except delay the process for the rest of the victims, and it was widely rumored (but never confirmed) that the rest of the money went to the organizer's private plane's upkeep.

They are the embodiment of sunk cost fallacy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Scam Psychology: How Threshold of Collective Behavior Affects Victim's Mindset

Readers of this blog have remarked that they are very surprised at how a victim will refuse to acknowledge s/he is a victim, despite very clear evidence that are indisputable, repeatedly demonstrated, even by the leader of the scheme. The victim simply ignores any evidence that is "negative" and accepts any evidence that is "positive". It is... completely irrational.

Yet irrational behavior is so prevalent, even when the behavior is CLEARLY demonstrated to be irrational. The perfect example? Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game
Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game
(Photo credit: 
Wilt Chamberlain, despite his legendary status, was a HORRIBLE free throw shooter. For his entire career... his free throw shooting percentage is... 51%. However, this guy once scored 100 points in an NBA game... BY HIMSELF!!!!!!  And in this game, he made 28/32 free throws... with UNDERHANDED throw! He made the first nine free throw shots! He tried doing this underhanded throw for a while and improved to 70+% accuracy rather than 50% of his normal overhand throw. So you'd think he'd keep doing it, right? WRONG! He went back to being a BAD shooter, because... Wilt Chamberlain does NOT want to throw underhanded. He "felt silly, like a sissy."

The choice to switch back to the 50% overhand free throw is an IRRATIONAL decision.  How can one of the greatest NBA players choose to play badly... just because... he felt bad even though the results speak for itself? Even today, the underhand throw is known as a "granny shot", and there are almost NO professional or semi-pro basketball players using it (only two in NBA, IIRC).

This sort of irrational behavior is very much in evidence when it comes to scam victim's mindset. Scam victims have been known to organize rallys "in support" of their ponzi scheme, interfere in government probes and sometimes, even sue the government in attempts to "clear the name" of the scheme they were involved in.

Sociologists believe this may have something to do with "threshold of collective/group behavior", where people will choose to follow a group, despite the group is NOT something they believe in. Like Wilt Chamberlain who chose to follow other players (in order not to feel sissy) instead of improve his scoring, scam victims will follow their group until the bitter end despite they know this can only turn out badly.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Scam Tactic: "Don't knock it until you try it" slogan is very bad advice

One of the most common arguments for income schemes is "don't knock it until you try it", i.e. "it paid me so it works". This is actually a VERY flawed argument. Recently I came across the Skeptoid episode: don't try it until you knock it. While that's about general skepticism, it works very well for financial scam debunking as well, as it destroys all the variations of the bad argument.

Don't Knock It Until You Try It?  Nah. 

Personal experience is "sample size of one". It is noise. It subject to sunk cost fallacy, subjective validation, self-superiority bias, confirmation bias, and all the other cognitive biases. Mankind invented science and scientific process to counteract such biases.  Personal observation is subjective, and therefore biased information. Advocating one to "try it" simply proves nothing.

Yet MLMers love to fly this particular argument. They value personal experience over all others, the exactly opposite of scientific process trying to filter out bad data. It is basically fully faith-based.

I was skeptical until I tried it

A true skeptic would know NOT to try it due to all the reason discussed above. The proper way to evaluate something is through scientific and statistical process from a large sample set, not through a single subjective personal experience.

Falling for a dare / lure to "try it" just makes you gullible, not skeptical. Yet MLMers selling nutritional supplements or unproven "treatments" love to fly this particular argument.  (also see "What's the harm" below)

I know it works, because it worked for me

So somehow, you're God, and what you experienced is the universal truth for everybody, eh? It's just your subjective experience, based on your circumstances at the time, and based on all your PRIOR memory and experiences. If any one else had different life history, experienced the same thing at a different time, under different circumstances, or any combination of such, the experience will be different.

What you experienced is only good for yourself. It is not a data point. It is anecdote.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Where do these MLMers get their "facts"? Certainly not from this reality.

In attempting to engage with some MLMers regarding their unbridled enthusiasm, I've since found out they seem to be armed with a lot of... nonsense from somewhere. They surely don't seem to have just... invented it. But where did they get such nonsense that they perceive as "facts"?

Here are a random sample of  several "not-facts" thrown out for sake of argument by these MLM supporters, all the while chanting "Worre pwn'ed Ramsey!" in the Youtube comments of a Dave Ramsey show where Ramsey provided some realistic outlook on MLM.

It makes one wonder, do they just make up "facts" as they go along?

S1. "MLM works for thousands of people around the world"

S2. "Amway Japan is the biggest company there and has been trading for over 55 years."

A1. I never said anything about "MLM doesn't work", but that's ignore that for the moment, as he did. He put up a strawman, then cited a non-sensical fact in support. "Thousands of people around world" found MLM to be working...

DSA estimates that there are 20.2 million (per 2015 fact sheet, in the US alone, and probably 100 million around the world, in MLM. If only "thousands" found it works, that would suggest TENS OF MILLIONS found it did not work, doesn't it?

Factualness rating: D, true, but not placed in context. A system that works for a tiny minority cannot be considered a working system.

A2. Even a modicum of logic should tell you this is impossible. The biggest corporations in Japan, the haibatsus are hundreds of billions big.  Toyota's revenue from 2013 was 224 BILLION dollars.  This guy seriously thinks Amway in Japan can beat 224 billion? How old did he thinks Amway is any way? Amway Wiki states clearly that Amway Japan opened in 1979. That makes it 37 years old, certainly quite a bit off from 55. And its revenue, as per Amway was 1.1 billion USD (2006) again, AmwayWiki.

Factualness rating: F, completely false in every facet

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Eric Worre is wrong about Dave Ramsey: or, why MLM advocates only knows truthiness, not truth

If you are in the US, you probably heard of Dave Ramsey, who had been giving financial advice for decades as a radio call-in show (i.e. he goes live on air and lets normal people call him and he gives answers immediately) since 1992. He does not fully endorse multilevel marketing, but instead, advocates caution and realistic outlook, something that is inherently anti-faith, but based on evidence and reality. 

On August 10th, 2016, at about the 7:48 point, a "Sarah from Cincinnati Ohio" called in and asked about joining "It Works!" MLM.  Ramsey urged caution and be absolutely aware what she wants to do going in. His message was "... You will be in the recruiting business. There is nothing really inherently bad or evil about it, Your real job is training salespeople, in a high turnover environment, because most of them don't make it... I have friends that makes 7 figures in that business... But for every one of those, I know a thousand (chuckles) that didn't last 90 days, with six boxes of makeup in the garage they are still paying off on credit card... Is this really your calling if you had lost everything and starting from scratch? ... You ought to really thinking about what you're getting into. But if you want to give it a run, I will support you on it... " 

The MLM sphere went nuts as they reacted with venom. So-called MLM 'leaders' started posting videos 'Dave Ramsey is Wrong'. Here's a typical reaction from Eric Worre of
Dave (Ramsey) went on to pour cold water all over the hopes and dreams of this young woman, and pigeon holed the Network Marketing profession into his very limited understanding of what it is all about.
So what exactly is Eric Worre mad about? He claims that Ramsey made multiple mistakes. 
  • Risk is minimal in MLM, w/ the buyback policies in place
  • It's not recruiting, it''s expanding your network
  • Failure? So what? 90% of traditional businesses fail
  • Bothering friends? They''re doing it wrong
Mr. Worre's final message is: basically "why don''t you just be honest and admit you hate network marketing? Innuendo doesn't suit you". 

Go look in a mirror, Mr. Worre. Innuendo does not suit you either. 

Let's examine the factors at play... who''s really wrong or right? But with a skeptical attitude and fact-checking. 

Just how risky is MLM?

Eric Worre claims that Dave Ramsey exaggerated the risk involved in MLM, and most people don''t have "6 boxes of makeup sitting in the garage getting paid off on credit card".  He claims that with the 90% buyback policy in place in most major MLMs (esp. DSA members), financial exposure is minimal.

The problem with Mr. Worre's statement is there are NO stats available from the MLMs that such policies have been utilized. Yes, DSA members do have at least a 90% buyback policy for at least six months, i.e. if you want to return all the stuff you haven''t sold within 6 months, you get 90% back. Some even go as far as a year. However, there are various caveats not discussed. 

Is there any stats available on how often such policies had been invoked? How many hoops do people have to jump through to get such returns processed? 

Nope. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. 

In fact, it's been documented in Mary Kay that any attempts to quit an return inventory would trigger an "intervention" from your upline and other people in your group (because she would be notified as any returns means her commission from your purchases will be clawed back) who will want to meet with you then shame and guilt you into staying in past the refund deadline, or to delay you in order to ensure you will get as minimal refund as possible. 
Mary Kay sales directors and recruiters are notorious for using misinformation or unethical tactics to stop consultants from returning inventory. This includes lying about the program or otherwise delaying the consultant’s return so that less product can be returned under the “last 12 months” rule. --
It's hard to imagine the same does not happen in other MLMs as well. 

There are other tricks that can be done as well, like refresh products at less than 12 month cycles. That way when you try to return product it had already been phased out and thus cannot be returned. 

Sure there's a policy on the books, but a policy that's never used / enforced is no policy at all. 

Mr. Worre's hypothetical "white elephant" MLM only exists in his imagination. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cognitive Bias: Status Quo Bias

Status quo bias goes by many names, but to put it simply, "if it works why change anything"   Any change form the current situation is judged to be unacceptable.

Scam victims often suffer from status quo bias, esp. after they learned the scheme they've latched onto or recruited into isn't on as firm legal and financial footing as they were lead to believe. Even when presented with all the evidence that they are in a scam, they will keep saying "I don't know if XXX is a scam. Time will tell." They don't want anything to change, even when more viable alternative such as attempt to withdraw from the scheme, report fraud to the police, and so on seem to be more reliable method of dealing with the fraud.

Status quo bias is often mixed up with other biases, such as loss aversion, sunk cost fallacy, longevity (appeal to age fallacy), endowment effect, regret avoidance, and more.

Why Do We Have Status Quo Bias

Behavioral Economists Kahneman and Tversky published a paper back in 1982 that found people feel greater regret for bad outcomes that result from new actions taken, than for bad consequences that are the consequences of inaction. In other words, if doing something is bad, and not doing anything is also bad, people tend to do nothing. One possible explanation is people can then blame circumstances (I didn't change anything, circumstances changed) rather than take responsibility for their own choices. This is a fallacy, of course, since choice to do nothing is still a choice.

How Status Quo Bias interacts with other biases

Endowment effect is also known as "divestiture aversion" in behavioral economics. Basically, people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. It's also related to "mere ownership effect" in social psychology.  It can be described simply as "once you have it, you will want to keep it than give it up".

Sunk Cost fallacy is related, in that "once you started on a course of action, you justify your continual involvement by claiming you already spent effort and resources (sunk costs) and you cannot let it go to waste when it seems more prudent to cut the losses and change course."

As an example of endowment effect, people will often pay more to retain something they own, than to obtain something they do not own, even when there is no reason for attachment, and even when the object was obtained merely minutes ago.

Dan Ariely and Ziv Carmon did a test on hypothetical selling price (willingness to accept) NCAA Final Four tournament tickets. They found that the ratio of WTA (willingness to accept) vs WTP (willingness to pay) is 14 to 1. In other words, those who have the ticket want 14 times higher the price those that don't have the tickets are willing to pay.

Friday, July 29, 2016

SEC Halts Traffic Monsoon Ponzi Scheme, Reasserts that "Autosurf Ponzis" are illegal

The internet buzz on July 28th 2016 was the press release that SEC has halted the $207 Million Ponzi scheme called Traffic Monsoon.

Traffic Monsoon was operated by Charles Scoville, as a combination "internet traffic exchange and pay-per-click program" that solicited money from all over the world. It accepted money from at least 162000 investors primarily in US, India, and Russia by claiming to be a "highly successful advertising company", when in reality, more than 99% of the revenue was paid into the system by new investors, making it a classic Ponzi scheme.  Traffic Monsoon LLC is a Utah company. Scoville is believed to be in Dubai. SEC's motion to have an temporary freeze and receiver to take over the company has been granted.

Traffic Monsoon's primary product (which accounted for 99.6% of all revenue) is the "Adpack". At $50 each, purchaser is supposed to get 20 clicks on the banner (either they provide, or they can use one provided by Traffic Monsoon) and 1000 visitors from the traffic exchange, as well as "share in Traffic Monsoon's profit". In reality, TM was never able to fulfill the visitor promise. By its own counter, it can only provide about 1/10th of the visitors. In reality, TM operated as a $50 in, $55 out HYIP.

Those that track scams, such as the MLMSkeptic, would notice that this is structurally IDENTICAL to 12DailyPro (2005-2006) or Ad Surf Daily (2006-2008), both were also prosecuted as autosurf ponzi schemes.

What's more interesting is Charles Scoville himself has been observed operating several predecessors to Traffic Monsoon. There's TVIBUX, and there's AdHitsProfits, both are slight variations on the same ideas. Neither, however, made it big to hundreds of millions of dollars.

But first, let's explain what an autosurf is, and what an investment autosurf.

What is an autosurf? 

Autosurf is a type of Internet website traffic exchagne that automatically rotate advertised websites in the web browser.  Imagine leaving a browser window open to constantly display banners from all the other websites, which changes periodically. Each "view" earns you a "credit" which allows your site's banner some display time in other people's browser window.

Autosurf can operate as a "ponzi scheme" even if no money changes hands, if overall credits earned is in excess of total pageviews delivered, thus ensuring that there will always be credits left over.

Autosurf that involve money are known as Investment autosurfs.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

OPINION: With HLF consenting to reforms, and Burks of ZeekRewards Guilty, justice prevailed, but work is never done

July 2016 has been a busy month.

On July 15, 2016, news was released that Herbalife has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission where HLF agreed to a LONG list of reforms and pay a $200 million fine / reimbursement to the victims.

Then on July 22, 2016 Federal Court in North Carolina passed down the verdict... a Federal jury has convicted Paul Burks of ZeekRewards of all four counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.

MLMSkeptic has long criticized both schemes, both here on the blog, and on

MLMSkeptic had analyzed the various comments, retorts, criticisms, and cheers of Ackman's epic short of Herbalife at end of 2012 and the subsequent PR war, and pointed out problems with such arguments.  Most of the critics of Ackman then believed that HLF was "too big to fail", or perhaps "not egregious enough to die, maybe fined".

So it is with much amusement and facepalming when "journalists" loudly proclaimed "FTC says Herbalife not a pyramid", when FTC said no such thing.

How did CNNMoney got it so wrong?
FTC never said HLF is not a pyramid scheme... 
You are welcome to search the actual FTC complaint and stipulation agreed to by HLF. "Pyramid scheme" was nowhere in the documents. Furthermore, when questioned by the press at the news conference, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez was asked at least FOUR SEPARATE TIMES whether HLF is a pyramid scheme, and Ramirez repeatedly dodged the question (probably as a part of the settlement).
Q: I know that you’re not going to put any labels on this, but it seems to me if we look at the BurnLounge case, that while this complaint does not use the words “pyramid scheme”, would you agree that a prima facie case of a pyramid scheme is alleged with the allegations within the complaint?
A:  Again, I will leave it up to you to draw that conclusion. Our focus in this complaint was in addressing the core issues
When asked outright about HLF's own announcement... That FTC have determined HLF to be NOT a pyramid scheme...
Q: Did you review the language in their (Herbalife’s) press-release that sort of affirmatively said that they were not declared to be a pyramid scheme? Because they’re sort of having that as an outright headline.
A: I do not agree with that statement. The word “pyramid” does not appear in our complaint that is true, but um again the core facts that we’ve alleged, that we consider to be problematic with their compensation structure, are set forth in detail in our complaint. And again, I will leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions. But that they were determined to not be a pyramid… that would be inaccurate.
And indeed, checking the HLF website no longer shows any sort of language that claimed "FTC determined HLF not pyramid scheme"...

So you know which way the CNNMoney article was written... They were written from HLF's press release, not the FTC press release. It is... biased.  Shame, CNN. Shame on you for lazy reporting.

I am not listing all the changes that FTC managed to squeeze out of HLF. You can read the documents linked above yourself. It is a LONG list of reforms, and it will likely become a new standard much as Amway's settlement with FTC created the modern MLM back in 1979.  And that pretty much tells you the fact: HLF was a scam that required reforms so it is no longer operating as a scam. Any one who argues otherwise is simply denying reality.

I may do my own analysis later on these changes, but HLF is no longer the same company. They believe they can continue to thrive (or else they would not agreed to these changes), but we shall see.

Then we come to Zeek Rewards, and Paul Burks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to spot shady opportunities V2.0: a 10 item checklist

NOTE: This was a rewritten version of the guide back in 2014.

World is full of Shady Opportunities that want you to put in money with promises of payback. Here are ten signs of shady schemes. Obviously a scheme probably would not have all ten, but the more signs you spot, the more likely it will be a scam.
  1. Clickbait-y Slogan
  2. Misinterpreted results
  3. Conflict of interest(s)
  4. Correlation vs. Causation
  5. Weasel words
  6. Bad Samples
  7. (Lack of) Control Group
  8. Unverifiable testimonial and Improper disclosure
  9. Cherrypicked and unreplicable results
  10. Paid or fake media coverage and reviews

Clickbait-y Slogan

EVERYBODY hates clickbaits... They are headlines written with intentional hyperbole and tease to get you to tease. Shady opportunities are the same. Does the scheme make incredulous claims such as "On our team everyone makes money"? Or they somehow "Pay One time $289 and get a minimum of $1040 back Guaranteed!" perhaps?  Before you say "nobody is stupid enough to make this sort of stupid claims"... think again:

Screen cap of Google Search results, yes, someone promised and guaranteed that
$289 will magically grow to $1040 and more. It's obviously clickbait.
As Carl Sagan said before, "extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence".  If they made such extraordinary claim, then they should supply the extraordinary evidence to support their claim. And since there are so many ILLEGAL ways of making money... Making money in itself is no proof. 

It doesn't matter if the claims are repeated by the people you trust. They could have been duped and/or brainwashed. If they didn't ask for extraordinary evidence and is convinced of such, then you should not trust their judgement, esp. when they are in no position to evaluate such. 

Misinterpreted Results

We are all affected by confirmation bias to one extent or another. If we hear some evidence, we are going to interpret them based on your experiences, while someone else may see the same data and interpret them very separately. Here's another example:

Monty comic / Is it going to be McCain or Obama?  (old joke on confirmation bias)
The sales pitch is designed to say "just enough" so you think it applies to you, and NOT tell you that parts that "this may not apply to you"... so you can misinterpret the results to be relevant.

Your mindset affects how you interpret the results, and willful blindness, Dunning-Kruger effect, and self-serving bias will lead you down the wrong path. 

Conflict(s) of interest

Most MLM companies in the "lotions and potions business" (nutritional supplements and cosmetics) employ scientists to carry out and publish research... But remember, those scientists may have conflict of interest, and if they did not disclose so, that is a huge ethical violation, as research can be misrepresented for personal or financial gain.

The worst example of which is (former doctor) Darryl M. See, who previously was a researcher at UC Irvine. He wrote a paper touting a Mannatech (MLM) product that he claimed has proven results in his study, and got it published in pretty famous American medical journal on nutrition. However, he never disclosed that 1) he had resigned from UC Irvine months before publication to pursue a career endorsing Mannatech (and was paid thousand per day for speaking gigs), 2) his wife had been a Mannatech rep for years, and 3) he made dozens of audio tapes sold at Mannatech conventions and seminars touting Mannatech products  4) His father was a personal friend of the journal's publisher.

When the news broke, UC Irvine had NO RECORD of any such study had occurred, but Mannatech's president already announced such to its legion of reps. In the end, Mannatech sued See, who jumped to a different company, before eventually forced to give up his medical license due to multiple medical ethics violations.

If someone suggests MLM as a way to solve your financial needs, you need to consider... Are they really doing it because they think it's the right thing for you to make some money... or is it because THEY, by recruiting you, will make some money off of you joining?

Stay skeptical of any and all claims, esp. when it is done with the ultimate aim to recruit you. 

Correlation vs. Causation

When two things happen together, it does NOT mean one caused the other, despite how much you feel one *must* have caused the other.

XKCD... Did cell phone cause cancer... or did cancer cause cell phones? 
Don't get the joke? Following is a 100% true graph...

Is there relation between Autism and Organic Food? They correlate to the third decimal point!?!?!
Yep, that's right, Organic food sales correlate with autism over 10 year period. Real data. But of course there's no causation... Yet that's the point: just because two things happen together doesn't mean one caused the other. It likely to be a mere coincidence.

Yet many MLMers want you to believe that their nutritional supplement made them healthier, their magic rub took away their pain, their magic juice / tea / coffee took away their diabetes, and so on, because those effects "only" appeared when they started using those stuff.

For those of you who watch Stephen Colbert, this is related to the difference between the truth... and truthiness. Or as Colbert himself puts it:
Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.
If you BELIEVE it's causation, you'll never accept it's merely correlation. If you believe your nutritional supplements made you feel better, or that special widget increased your car's mileage by 15%, you'll never believe accept that the supplement's merely placebo effect, and the widget is relying on your lighter foot as you FEEL less need to speed and get better mileage. You believe truthiness (There is an effect and I caused it!) instead of the truth (It's just correlation and coincidence).

Correlation is NOT causation (until proven otherwise). 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

MLM, Religion, and Feminism: synergy, or triple threat?

I was reading this article on Vox about multilevel marketing by Kate Shellnutt when I had an epiphany: MLM's rise to prominence matches rise of feminism to mainstream, and it is connected to religion.

Consider this... What do Christianity and Islam say about women working? Their view is that women should stay home and mind the house.
All three texts—the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur’an—invariably stipulate women’s religious duty of submission to men. In this view, women are deemed subordinate to men, with their legitimate roles invariably exhausted inside the home.  (huffingtonpost 11/07/2014)
Consider this... Did you know that Mormons are into generosity and sharing? Did you know that Utah, home of the Mormons, is home to many of the largest MLM companies in the world? NuSkin, doTerra, USANA, and dozens / hundreds of smaller companies...In fact, five of the top 50 MLMs in the world are based in Utah.

This is no accident. According to Dr. Jon M. Taylor, a Mormon, and a former MLM participant, now MLM investigator, MLM is designed to emulate / co-opt the Mormon style of sharing / proselytizing.

When you combine all these points, the conclusion is simple: MLM is designed to

1) appeal to women who wish to earn income (and thus be less subservient to men)

2) allow women to stay home and do their more traditional homemaker roles (so men can't object to it too much, as it's "only part time")

3) appeal to women who wishes to socialize and share (which is why there's gajillion "party plan" MLMs selling everything from plastic containers to sex toys)

4) appeal to Mormon's style of "sharing" their faith and co-opt it

5) appeal to people of faith, who are more inclined to believe in something before effects can be demonstrated

Indeed, MLMs nowadays seem to be specifically designed for suburban moms who want a 2nd income, and they have faith (backed by desire, and religion) to dump all their effort, despite losses, into doing something they believe they love.

And they are out proselytising the virtues of MLM... based on these exact points.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How to be a cranky troll: Guide to IGNORE all useful feedback

(Author's note: This is written as a contrarian piece... The advice is BAD for you, and you are meant to do exactly opposite of all this. Got that? Okay, enjoy.)

Do you have absolute belief in yourself, that you can do no wrong, therefore, everybody else must be wrong? Are you surrounded by people who intend to change your mind even though you know YOU are right and they are wrong, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary?

Here are six tips to help you silence the world and live only within your head where you are always right:

1. Reinterpret specific advice to be personal attack on you, your business, your "family"

Any and all advice that you don't like is obviously an attack on you, your "family", your business, and your way of life, no matter where it came from, including your dear mama. They obviously... "don't understand" about how you work, how you think, how you live and therefore they have no business giving you advice!  In fact, anything other than "great job" is an attack on your beliefs!

2. Ignore advice until they are no longer relevant, then rant about how the advice is useless

Ignore all advice until it becomes "overtaken by events"... i.e. completely useless, then claim the advice is useless. Go ahead and insult the advice giver as useless and worthless, never mind you never took the advice any way. That's merely some inconvenient truth to be swept under the carpet.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Commentary: How "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing" illustrates what's wrong with Network Marketing

I often browse used bookstores, and one day I came across "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing" edited by Dr. Paul Rubino. As the MLM Skeptic, I read it with a skeptical mind...  Overall, I am rather... disappointed. While several of the authors out of 37 did dispense practical advice, such as how to utilize modern tech like autoresponder and such, while others laid out do's and don'ts on what to say in a sales speech, ZERO discussed what's legal and what's not legal.

"Pyramid scheme" was NEVER discussed, other than as an resistance to be overcome, as doubt in a prospect that must be quashed, and so on.

Product-based pyramid scheme was never mentioned.

In fact, the entire book is devoid of definitions other than odd backronyms like WOO = window of opportunity. There is no glossary, just an index.

Consider the implication: how would the network marketing noob know what's legal and what's not if it was NOT discussed in a so-called "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing"? How "ultimate" can this guide be if legal stuff was not discussed at all?

Furthermore, many of the chapters were about belief / faith. Belief in oneself, belief in product, belief in company, belief in team...  Belief involves TRUST. What happened to due diligence? Common sense? What makes the company, product, or team members WORTHY of trust?

This is basically a collection of "business porn"... written by network marketing "leaders" who claimed success through effort even though they can't prove that their success was a result of their effort. Anything they wrote are results of survivorship bias and self-serving bias, but people starting in network marketing believe these to be words of wisdom, and indeed, many of the 37 articles advocate "just ape what I do" or "create system that can be easily aped"

In fact, one article is about how to CREATE business porn... awards, recognitions, newsletters, mailing lists, podcasts, Youtube videos, and so on, as marketing vehicles.

Would you really consider "monkey see, monkey do" to be wisdom?  The entire book is thin on actual practical advice. Most are motivational talk and how to customize such for your particular market (i.e. your prospects). Again, it's business porn, and it does NOT help.

Just as porn is not sex but sexual fiction designed to titillate, business porn is NOT business advice, but sales pitch designed to motivate.  Porn is fine in moderate doses, but porn addiction is serious problem. Similarly, business porn is fine in moderate doses, but business porn addiction will simply depress you as you constantly choose to compare yourself to leaders, trying to ape them, without understanding WHAT made them successful (often, it's just luck) and what price did they pay (which is NOT depicted).

The book basically is all about trust, and duplication, with a few bits of sales techniques and marketing vehicles covered, but has ZERO advice on what to look for, how to spot good from bad, and how to spot legal from illegal.

The implication is very troubling: if this is the sort of book written by top network marketing professionals, network marketing is about faith and recruiting, not about sales and earning trust.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cognitive Bias: Choice Supportive Bias (aka Post-hoc Rationalization)

Previously we have often talked about cognitive dissoance, which is basically when a person is faced with two sets of "truths", and they conflict, therefore one set of which must be false.

For example, let's say the person has joined a suspect scheme, and is withdrawing money bi-weekly, but not yet achieved breakeven. Then he's exposed to a source that explained that the scheme is a scam with trustworthy sources.

So, how does one resolve this conflict between two sets of facts... a) the scheme works, I am getting paid  and b) the scheme is a scam ?

One way the conflict can be resolved is through "choice supportive bias", also known as post-hoc rationalization. As the person is already in the scheme, the person is likely to choose to continue in the scheme and therefore decide that the trustworthy sources (that explain the scheme is a scam) are NOT acceptable.

Basically, the person wants the answer to be "scheme is fine" and thus chose that outcome, and came up with reasons to discount the trustworthy sources post-hoc (after the fact). Normal logic is  check all the sources, then arrive at the conclusion. This is the reverse... The person know the conclusion s/he wants, then come up with the reasons later.   It's motivated thinking.

As you can probably guess, motivated thinking means more often than not the person will reach the WRONG conclusion, since the conclusion was NOT deduced from logic, but emotion.

Let's look at some examples...

Friday, June 10, 2016

Mythbusting: The Trump University is based on (some) bogus research

Trump University was in the news a lot, and it seems it may be the only thing that really got Trump riled up, as it's something he can't deny or denigrate... since it's his own. So instead, he denigrated everybody else... including the judge, which lead to furious denunciation by Republican leadership, who are put between the rock and the hard place of "supporting" their presumptive nominee WHILE wondering WTF happened that lead to this guy winning. The furor was so loud even Trump himself furiously backpedaled, claiming his comments were "misconstrued".

But we know EXACTLY what you mean, Mr. Trump.

In digging through some info about the Trump University, I came across its sales playbook dug up by Politico a while back. And it has some interesting information in it. Basically, they don't talk to the media, they don't let the lecturers over promise (any such incidents are reported to main office), and they will use psychological pressure to push you into buying their more expensive courses...

Including a bogus urban myth, such as "most persuasive words... from Yale University"

On page 99 of the document, you can find this:

Trump University Playbook, as posted by, see URL on top

The important part says:
The most persuasive words in the English language according to a study by the Psychology Department of Yale University are:  You, New, Money, Easy, Discovery, Free, Results, Health, Save, Proven, Guarantee, and Love
Except there was no such study. This is an urban legend.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Scam Psychology: "You have to try it to understand it" fallacy

One of the most popular fallacies trotted out by scammers and scammed sheeple is "you have to try it to understand it".  It has a cousin known as "you're not in it (so shut up)" argument.

Basically, the claim that any criticism levelled at the scheme is premature because the critics have not tried the scheme. The implication is once the critic have tried the scheme s/he will change his/her mind. It basically takes this form
A: Acme XYZ is a scam because of ____, _____, and _____.  
B: But you don't know Acme XYZ. How could you when you're not a member? Join us. 
The reply sounds very sensical, until you realize one thing: It never addressed your point: "Acme XYZ is a scam". It is completely irrelevant. It is a red herring. It neither disproves your premise, nor does it prove a counter premise.

The argument is non-sensical, and here's a very appropriate reply quip for such idiocy:
"So you have to eat shit to know not to eat it, huh?"

(Thanks to justicealwayslate on Facebook)

There are plenty of other quips, like "oh, so cops have to be criminals first to arrest criminals, huh?"  or "do I have to shoot myself to know it's a bad idea?" or "Do morticians have to die to be a mortician?" But you get the idea. It's ridiculous.

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.