Ponzis and Pyramids, the Audio Series

Ponzis and Pyramids is a consumer education audio series examining multi-level marketing and revealing the similarities between Wall Street Ponzis and Main Street Pyramids.

Ponzis and Pyramids is sponsored by Pyramid Scheme Alert and supported by donations from dedicated consumer activists, attorneys, and authors.

Chapter One: Dare Not Say Its Name

From the first encounter when a trusted friend invites you to an “opportunity meeting”, to buying overpriced products every month, to recruiting friends and then to purchasing worthless “motivation tools”, multi-level marketing (MLM) is permeated with deception and financial entrapment.

Chapter One, Dare Not Say Its Name confronts the harsh reality of MLM fraud, spread one to one by unwitting friends and family, and features an enlightening interview with the world’s most famous Amway whistle-blower, Eric Scheibeler, who provides the shocking details of the scam.

Listen to Chapter 1

Chapter Two: Ponzis in Everyday Life

Ponzi Wins the Heart of Women
Ponzi’s Pigeons

We do not have to open the newspaper to learn about Ponzi’s modern legacy. Ponzi’s legacy is now an every-day experience, shared by tens of millions of people in America and worldwide. Wherever you turn, there is Ponzi, whispering friend to friend about a great new opportunity, the chance of a lifetime, but you need to act now. This chapter of Ponzis and Pyramids looks at two enormous and tragic pyramid schemes that swept Canada and the USA recently:

The first is the Women Helping Women “Gifting” Pyramid” that ensnared as many as a half million women in North America and spread to England, Africa, Australia and beyond. The second is the Pigeon breeding Ponzi that ruined nearly 1,000 family farmers.

To discuss these extraordinary frauds, Canadian Consumer Activist David Thornton of CrimeBustersNow.com is interviewed. Mr. Thornton was the first and most prominent whistle-blower to bring down the tragic Pigeon Ponzi that wiped out so many Canadian farmers. For his actions, he has paid a high price. For naming one prominent scam in Canada a pyramid scheme, he was sued in court for $10 million dollars. Dave Thornton defended himself in court. He did not even have an attorney but represented himself against a team of Canada’s best paid lawyers.

Dave Thornton won!

Listen to Chapter Two

Chapter Three: Main Street Blues and the Selling of Hope

At the heart of the pyramid scheme fraud is the false promise of income. This promise meets one of the highest and surely the most basic need of all, the need to work and to survive and support a family.

This need has become more intense in recent times as debt, cost of living and the pressures of consumerism have risen while income and job opportunities have declined. The current “Great Recession” has worsened these conditions, creating the perfect storm for a marketing fraud to exploit. Consider these facts:

  • In three years, there have been more than 7.1 million foreclosures in the U.S.
  • In 2009, nearly 60 percent of mortgage defaults were triggered, not by bad mortgage terms, but by unemployment which is now at 10%
  • Overall national poverty rate hit an 11-year high of 13.2 percent in 2008
  • The African- American poverty rate was 24.6 percent, the Latino rate was 23.2 percent,
  • 36% of all consumer debt is high interest credit card debt.
  • U.S. consumer bankruptcies increased 32 percent nationwide in 2009 from the previous year.

To discuss how the pain on Main Street is exploited by multi-level marketing is author and consumer activist Ruth Carter, author of Amway Motivation Organizations, Behind the Smoke and Mirrors. She is the publisher of the groundbreaking MLM Survivor.com, one of the first whistle-blowing websites, and she is the creator of the MLM Survivors Club, a popular and immensely valuable forum for victims of multi-level marketing.

Listen to Chapter 3

Chapter Four: The Death of the Salesman and the Rise of Ponzi

Arthur Miller’s tragic story about washed out salesman, Willie Loman, has many modern applications. We have watched blue collar jobs and entire industries disappear. What about the most basic job description of them all – the door to door salesman?

The question is highly relevant because most of the Main Street Pyramid schemes are disguised as “Direct selling,” also called network marketing. Are the millions solicited to join “network marketing” actually selling products to retail customers? If not, what do they do? Is it possible to make a profit selling soap or vitamins to friends and neighbors? Or are they just recruiting more salespeople? If so, is this really a business opportunity?

Do MLM people really own their “own” businesses or just buying a position on a pyramid? Is the average income of the new people at the bottom justify calling MLM a legitimate “income opportunity?” If 99% always fail, is this really an “opportunity” at all or is it really a financial trap?

To examine these questions, I’ll interview Dr. D. Anthony Miles, a university professor in San Antonio, Texas and an entrepreneurial business owner. We sort our reality from myth and hype. Dr. Miles is a true rarity in business and academia. He lives in both worlds and from the perspective of both scholar and businessperson, he has looked closely and critically at multi-level marketing. In general, the academic world has largely ignored the field of business opportunity fraud and Ponzi schemes. No wonder the schemes are running rampant now. So little is known about them. The interview with Dr. Miles sheds light on this area where so much deception is taken as fact.

Listen to Chapter Four