I Scammed A Pyramid Scheme

– What kind of person make
their own scam business and then tricks their
friends into joining? How do people fall for something that is obviously too good to be true? Back in 2012, I got to find out. Everything I’m about to
tell you is 100% true and filled with a bunch of
bad decisions on my part, so I’ve changed some of
the names and specifics. So, here we go. I’m 26, working in New
York City, when I get a random Facebook message
from a guy named Daniel. I’ve never met him before, but it shows we went to the same high
school, so I read his message. Hey Jeffrey, I am working
with a local business team in online distribution currently. We’re growing quite a
bit and we’re looking for one or two ambitious individuals. Right off the bat, it
sounded pretty scammy, so I told him I was interested. On the phone, he tells me he’s looking for a few go-getters to start
a business of their own. He says it would be easy for me, I could work in my spare time at home as often or as little as I’d like. If I was interested, he wanted
me to meet with his boss. I had a lot of questions. What kind of business was this exactly? Uh, my boss can tell you
more when you speak with him. And what is the name of your company? I’ll explain everything
when you meet my boss. I’ve gotten a vague promise of money and literally no other information. So I tell him I’m in. Flash forward to the day of the meeting. To prep, I create a fake
resume and put it in a folder with a picture of Bill Gates
to really impress them. I bought a $20 oversized suit at Goodwill along with a pair of bright
yellow running shoes. I tell my real coworkers where I’m going and that if they don’t
hear from me in two hours, get worried. At the hotel, Daniel is
waiting for me in the lobby in a navy blue suit, completely alone. Let’s go meet everybody. Everybody, who is everybody? I thought we were just meeting his boss. We get into the elevator
and to my surprise, Daniel hits the down button. Down, what on Earth could be underneath the lobby of this hotel? For the first time, I start
to get really nervous. The doors open and I am stunned. We walk into a massive ballroom with what’s gotta be like 200 people. There is a stage with tons of chairs and a bunch of other people
wearing the exact same navy suit as Daniel. I have no idea what’s going on. Daniel tells me a presentation
will be starting shortly and takes me to the seats where there’s a bunch of other people who look like they’re in
the same situation as me. I immediately turn to the
person sitting next to me and ask do you have any
idea what is going on? She says she’s not sure, it’s
just a business opportunity. Do you know the person
who invited you here? “Not really,” she says. The person on the other side of me says the exact same thing. What is going on here? Who are these people? Why did they come to this event? Who in the world would come to this with no information at all? The lights dim and one of
the navy suits gets on stage and tells us we are in for
a very special treat today. He introduces a man named Joseph and all of the navy suits
erupt into a huge applause, cheering and howling like this
man is some kind of a god. Joseph walks up to the microphone and proceeds to spend the next 15 minutes telling us about what a great life he has. He’s 35 years old, his business
is at the diamond level. He works three hours a week
and makes $150,000 a year. He goes on vacation all the time. He’s got a beautiful wife. He’s retiring in the next two years, and then he tells us the
most important thing of all. This could be all of you. Me, me? (gasps) He starts pointing to people in the crowd. What would you do with
an extra $100 a month? What would you do with
an extra $1,000 a month? At this point, about
30 minutes have passed and the only thing he’s
really talked about is how good money is when he finally tells us
about the opportunity. You’d be starting your own business that sells home goods and beauty products. Instead of going to the store to buy them, you’d buy them from yourself. Hey, you got some friends who need these? They can buy them from you too. Why would they support a big corporation when they can support a friend? If someone you know joins your business, you get a percentage
of whatever they make. It’s easy money, you don’t
even have to do anything for. Joseph tells us we’ll make
the diamond level in no time. The audience is eating it up, they cannot wait to hear more. This sounded like a pyramid scheme to me. The sleazeballs at the top of the company make a ton of money as
long as a bunch of suckers keep signing up below them. These unfortunate people will
keep putting their own money into this business, losing more money than they’ll ever make. By now, Joseph is wrapping
up his presentation. He tells us he knows we’re super excited, but that we shouldn’t
go telling our friends or family about anything yet. They might have questions
that we don’t know the answers to and it’s
better off if we just wait. He says goodbye and the navy suits give another excessive round of applause. Everyone stands up and Daniel
makes his way back over to me. So, what do you think? It sounds amazing. I can see the dollar signs
light up in his eyes. He takes me back to the lobby and tells me to hang tight
while he grabs an info packet. While I’m waiting there,
I watch as two navy suits walk across the entire room and stand like two feet away from me. So, what level are you at? I just got to platinum. Wow, and you’ve only been
doing this for three months. And then, they walked away. They came across the entire room and stood two feet next to me just so I could overhear that. Daniel returns in gives
me the info packet. It’s titled Creating Choices,
A Business of Your Own, and the very first page
has a picture of a sailboat on the ocean with the caption imagine where life can take you. The book then goes on to a
diagram of their business model, which is actually shaped like a pyramid. It also shows that the
only thing you need to do to start your own business is pay $200 to get your very own website. You gotta pay to play, right? He puts the pressure on me to
do it right then and there, but I tell him I need
a week to consider it. He says “okay,” but he warns
me not to google anything about the company, so of
course I google the company and immediately my browser is
filled with horror stories. People talk about losing
their life savings. One lady even wrote about her brother trying to recruit people
at their father’s funeral. He was a great man, and these are great products. Some people call it a cult. They brainwash people to convert their entire lives to this company. They convince you it’s not a scam and they train you how to reply
to anybody who says it is. They have a very special
way they want you to run your business, and
it can only be learned by purchasing their books and DVDs and paying to go to their seminars. So it’s a week later and I’m
meeting Daniel in a cafe. I get a little nervous when he
gets right down to business. When I say I don’t know
if I’m gonna have enough time to do this, you could work as little or as much as you like. When I say I’m not good at sales, we have specialized training and we can teach you how to succeed. When I say I’m not sure I wanna spend $200 on something right now, actually, the startup fee is $300. (record scratches)
Wait wait wait, $300? The packet says $200. Oh, yes, the $200 starts up your website, but there’s an extra $100 needed to get you your first
training books and videos. Eh, I don’t think I need those. Oh, but it’s the only
way our business owners can be successful. Did you buy them? Of course. Well, then can I just borrow them from you? Huh? I can see nobody has ever
asked him this before. He gets flustered for just a moment, but then jumps right back in. No, no, no, it’s really recommended that you buy your own. Why? Well, if you borrowed mine,
everyone would want to, and there wouldn’t be enough to go around. I tell him I’m a really fast reader and I even read most
of of the Harry Potter books in a single weekend. Are any of your training books as long as a Harry Potter book? Then it wouldn’t really be difficult for me to read these quickly. Right. So, I can just borrow yours? And I can’t believe it, he says I, I guess. I’m using logic to get
out of paying him money. I can tell that’s not what he wants. He wants someone who’s
not gonna ask questions. I could see that for Daniel’s sake, I should stop wasting his time. It’s either join his team or tell him I was messing with him. So I do the only proper thing. I abruptly leave. Over the next few years,
every now and then, I’d get little reminders of this company. I actually know someone
else from high school who joined and lost a lot of money. So after two years, I decide, hey, maybe I should check in with Daniel again. Hey Daniel, how are
things with the business? Did I make a mistake by not joining you? Business has been cooking
like never before. Well, to tell you the truth,
I can’t say you haven’t missed out, but then again, sometimes the timing just
isn’t right for people. To be honest, I was a little bit surprised he was still with the company, but I guess that means he was making money. I guess it goes to show
you should never give up on your dream, even if your
dream is scamming people. (triumphant music) (upbeat music) – [Man] Hey guys, we’re– – [All] Pero Like! – Did you know it’s
Hispanic Heritage Month? (speaking foreign language) – For more Latino content. – Subscribe here.


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