Saturday, October 19, 2013

How To Help People You Suspect Are Being Scammed

There has been many questions by folks with friends and relatives who were into suspicious schemes. The victims are so cult-indoctrinated that nothing seem to work. What can be done, if one cannot afford cult deprogramming / exit interview? And what if the victim does NOT wish help?

First, a disclaimer. I'm not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or know anything about the mind, other than some critical thinking. The following stuff is UNTRIED, UNTESTED "common sense" sort of approach I would take if I were to approach someone in a similar predicament.

My approach is... asking questions, Socratic questions. But this is NOT a quick fix. Undoing the knot will take a lot of time, and a lot of questions. This is my personal idea, based on Socratic Questions (as explained in Skeptoid #384). I hope this is of use to people, and I welcome any feedback. Any way...

You will probably need an empty work area, preferably with a big table where you can spread stuff out, a computer to do research on various topics, and a big stack of index cards. Figure at least 100, if not 200 cards, and a few pens, different color (you use one color for questions, he uses another for answers). You will definitely need one big red marker in addition to other colored pens.

And finally, you will need several hours, with refreshments and snack breaks in between, but NO CELLPHONES. The idea is to get the victim AWAY from his/her upline's influence for a while.

And you will need a quick lesson in critical thinking, and understand what is a "null hypothesis". I suggest you research a bit of critical thinking on your own before you attempt this "intervention".  Null hypothesis is best described as unknown / indeterminate state. If the premise is "WooPlus cures cancer", the null hypothesis would be "we don't know whether WooPlus cures cancer or not". the ANTI-premise is "WooPlus does NOT cure cancer". Facts and Logic (evidence) are suppose to move you from null hypothesis toward the premise. When there's not enough evidence you're left with the null hypothesis, not the anti-premise. Yet many people mistake the critical thinking process into thinking that it's either the premise, or the anti-premise, with no null hypothesis.

In the future, I may publish some of the better questions to ask, though this is highly dependent on the individual subject.

NOTE: If you cannot finish this in one sitting, you may want to pick a smaller premise, like "WooPlus product is effective for _____" first. Or perhaps ask for help analyzing his answers, even online. Just don't let him consult upline (yet). If questioned, reply that you want to get to the facts, which are easily Googled, instead of relying on someone else's memory.

There are three general phases:
  • Engage and clarify premise with supporting evidence and logic
  • Identify ambiguities, assumptions, and logical fallacies
  • Re-examine premise with multiple perspectives

Friday, October 18, 2013

SEC Warns All About "profit-sharing" Pyramid Schemes Pretending to be MLMs

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...
Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The US Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC for short, has just released an Investor Alert warning all to watch out for pyramid schemes masquerading as MLM companies. It comes two days after SEC busting yet ANOTHER Ponzi scheme called CKB168, a purported MLM allegedly selling online children's courses, pitched primarily toward Asian Americans in the US. However, it mentioned something very interesting: SEC recognized the potentially illegal profitsharing by pseudo-MLMs back in 1971.

Back in 1971, when MLM first came upon the scene, SEC had ALREADY recognized the danger of "profit-sharing" schemes that are falsely marketed as "not investments". You are welcome to read the full SEC "interpretation", but here's an excerpt (with some sections bolded by me):
The Securities and Exchange Com­mission has considered-the applicabllity of the securities laws to multilevel dis­tributorship and other business opportunities that are being offered to prospective participants through pyramid sales plans. The Commission believes that the operation of. such plans -often Involves the offering of an "Investment contract" or a "participation in a profit-sharing agreement," which are securities within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Securities Act of. 1933. In such cases the security involved-the agreement between the offering company and the Investor­ must be registered with the commission unless an exemption is available. In the absence of registration or an exemption, sales of these securities violate section 5 of the Securities Act.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Citron Research cites Chinese Reports that NuSkin is a cult-like pyramid scheme

Citron Research, who slammed NuSkin a year ago, citing their investigation that NuSkin operates as an illegal pyramid scheme in China, is back with yet ANOTHER scathing conclusion about NuSkin. This time, they are citing CHINESE reports that NuSkin reps used slogans, brainwashing techniques, fraudulent and unproven health claims, falsely claiming that NuSkin products will treat and cure cancer, fraudlently representing themselves as doctors or health professionals, and possibly WORSE behavior.

This is getting picked up on multiple American news websites, including Valuewalk. (See below)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WCM777 went for a long swim back to Asia, abandoned US operations, who is Phil Ming Xu?


After paying for some PR with a local town call Walnut to and got a "Certificate of Appreciation" only months ago, WCM777, a suspect ponzi scheme, has apparently closed shop in the US and decided to operate away from American jurisdiction and operate out of Hong Kong instead. This followed a trend of various suspect Ponzi schemes leaving the US or shutting down since the fiery end of Zeek Rewards Ponzi back in August 2012 (including GoFunRewards, FunkyShark, and others).

However, even before WCM777 left for transpacific swim, its US headquarters is quite lame:  (Thanks to M. Bareng, a commenter on BehindMLM for this photo)  1218 John Reed Court, City of Industry, CA 91745 

That's right, a flat sign and two 8.5x11 paper signs scotch (tm) taped to a side door.

What's even more interesting is the alleged leader, Dr. Xu  (full name: Ming Xu) claims to be a devout Christian and keeps talking about "7 mountains" and spread love and socialism... but also wants your money.

Dr. Xu claimed to have graduated from courses via Harvard.

However, Harvard Business School refused to verify this claim, citing "privacy" concerns. This is the official reply from HBS:

Thank you for contacting Harvard Business School Executive Education. In order to verify a participant’s attendance at one of our Executive Education programs, we require a signed letter of consent from the participant. If you have a release signed by this individual stating that we are allowed to provide information about his or her educational background, we will be happy to complete your request. This document can be either scanned and emailed to me at <censored> or faxed to +1 617-CEN-SORED to my attention.
For your reference, Private Equity and Venture Capital is a program in our Executive Education program portfolio. Our programs are non-degree bearing and a certificate upon completion is earned.

So Ming Xu did not "graduate" from HBS. There is such a program, but they will NOT verify attendance. 

What's really interesting is "Dr. Xu" also turned up on a fake Harvard... "Harvard Global Institute"

This school is a fake school (.org domain, not .edu) aimed at Chinese market (why else is it available in Chinese?), and clearly unfinished, as most of the placeholder text were never replaced. There is no contact information. Domain is hiding under private registration.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

MLM Woo: Marine Phytoplankton and Rose As Nutritional Supplement

Simple question: Do you eat algae?

Of course not. Waterborne insects, small fish and crustaceans, and amphibians like frogs eat algae. Remember those aquarium mini catfish that sucks the bottom and the sides? They're eating algae.

In large bunches, fresh water algae is also known as "pond scum".

How about marine phytoplanktons? That's just microscopic algae that live on the ocean. It's "sea scum" (instead of pond scum!)  Whales and some other cetaceans eat them. Crustaceans like shrimp and zooplanktons (micro-shrimp and others) eat them too. Marine invertebrates like sea stars, sea cucumbers, and so on also eat marine phytoplanktons.

Would you eat marine phytoplanktons? I don't see why you would when you won't eat algae. Clearly, fruits and vegetables are much more delicious for us land lubbers.

Or to put it even more plainly... Do you prefer eating this:

Or this?

The choice is clear, isn't it? You'd choose the latter.

So why is "marine phytoplankton" being marketed as some sort of super food?

Think about it, folks. Why would a LAND animal, such as human, achieve full absorption of MARINE phytoplankton? When there are plenty of LAND phytonutrients available as fruits and vegetables?

Or put it another way, why would any one pay to eat sea equivalent of pond scum, when there's plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables prepared any way you like?

And how much do you actually get any way?