Saturday 19 November 2016

More denial

I’ve warned people several times recently, both in the print press but also on the radio and on social media about a pyramid scheme calling itself Helping Hands International. They describe themselves as “an empowerment-based- membership program, a global opportunity born out of the passion for total human capacity development and for helping the less privileged”. They claim that joining their scheme will allow you to “achieve all your dreams” and receive “financial freedom”, “passive income, business grants, brand new cars, laptops/iPad, house of your own, all expenses paid trip abroad”, the list goes on and on, culminating in “residual income for life”.

Despite my best efforts, I can’t find any clue as to how any of these things can be achieved. Do they have any products to sell? Multi-Level Marketing companies like Amway sell household products and Herbalife sell “health” products (although it’s cheaper and healthier just to buy yourself some oranges) but with Helping Hands International there’s nothing. They sell nothing but illusions of wealth and prosperity. In fact, in a discussion on Facebook, one of their representatives offered a number of questions and answers that tell the whole story.

One of the questions was
“When I sign up, do I need to sell any goods like other MLM companies?”
The answer was very telling:
“No. We don’t sell any goods.”
Helping Hands International is a pyramid scheme. It has no products and the business model is entirely based on recruiting people beneath you and them recruiting people beneath them with the promise of money magically flowing up the pyramid in your direction. That’s a pyramid scheme.

Another of the questions that the representative posed was this: “Is there any reputable organization in support of” Helping Hands International? Their answer was remarkable. They claim that they’ve “been recognized by the United Nations for the incredible charity works they have been doing across the globe” and that they are sponsored by Apple, HP and Hyundai.

This a lie. A flagrant lie. It’s simply untrue. The UN and companies like Apple, HP and Hyundai don’t “sponsor” scams like Helping Hands International. They haven’t, they don’t and they never will.

I mentioned this on the radio as well as in Mmegi and on Facebook, doing my best to warn people before they committed themselves. Hopefully some people heard and will have contained their urge to throw away their money. But not everyone was convinced. Very quickly I started to get messages on Facebook from people who had already joined or were themselves actively trying to recruit others. One of them was very angry with me. He did his best to convince me that the scheme was legitimate, saying that if only I joined I’d see the benefits. So I asked him about his personal experience. Was he really making money? Yes, he said, he certainly was. How much had he made? Just how much was this fortune he said he was making from the scheme?


Yes, just eighty Pula. That’s all he’d made so far. And how much had he “invested” to earn this fortune?


We then had a lengthy online argument, with him convinced that he was now up by P80 and me suggesting that in fact he was down by P420. Obviously I’m going to say that I’m right and he’s wrong but I do think the evidence is on my side. Helping Hands International is a scheme with no products to buy or sell and several of the people involved have confirmed that new money comes just from other people joining the scheme in multiple layers beneath them. That’s the definition of a pyramid scheme. Sooner or later, like all other pyramid schemes, they’ll exhaust the supply of gullible victims and the new money will dry up. That’s when a whole lot of people will suddenly realise that they’ve given away their money and that the scammers who run pyramid schemes don’t offer refunds.

I had an almost identical conversation with someone during the Eurextrade Ponzi scheme. Someone who had “invested” in Eurextrade, hoping to earn the promised 2.9% interest per day that they offered. He was furious that I’d warned people not to join, saying that they would never earn such profits and they’d almost certainly lose everything they handed over. He told me the same story. He’d earned P3,000 from the scheme and was convinced he was going to make a lot more. I asked how much he’s paid them to get this money. P10,000, he said. Again we had a long discussion about whether he now had P13,000 or had just lost P7,000. As it turned out, I was right.

People like these are angry because anyone who tries to persuade people not to join a scheme like these is threatening their potential income. Deep down, they know that they can only make money when new people join their scheme and anyone who tries to stop this will threaten that. They’ll continue telling people that there’s some miraculous, magical thing happening behind the scenes to make more money but they know in their hearts that it’s a scam. They just can’t face the truth. If they did they’d have to admit that they’d done something obviously silly that is likely to cost them a lot of money.

The tragedy is that when people are experience that level of denial, there’s very little you can do to persuade them of the truth. That’s why so many otherwise rational, reasonable and intelligent people fell for Ponzi schemes like Eurextrade, Monitec Society and now Billcoin. It’s why others fell for pyramid schemes like TVI Express, World Ventures and now Helping Hands International.

It’s why we need to get to people before they join and before they enter the denial phase. It’s why we need to educate people enough so they don’t fall for them in the first place.

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