By Neela Ramsundar
IT’S the latest trending topic in Trinidad and Tobago: pyramid schemes.
They’re been around for ages, but have blown up to viral status on social media after the DSS debacle started a few days ago.
In this article, I’d like to share with you some insight into my personal experiences coming face to face with pyramid scheme bosses, in the hope you are better able to understand how they operate.
But first, let me break down into the simplest of terms what a pyramid scheme is. No matter how it’s dressed up and sold, it is a fraudulent way to make money.
Central to generating that money is the recruitment of an ever-increasing number of “investors”. For example, the boss recruits you into the scheme, with you investing a sum of money, say $1,000. You’re promised $10,000 or ten times your investment, if you recruit ten more investors and so it goes.
Sometimes the pyramid scheme is designed as a way of making money through selling products. Sometimes there’s no explanation at all how the money is made; it’s just called it an “investment”.
As I’ve said, the attraction to the scheme is that some “investors” will make an insane amount of money from it, initially. This is what is used to sell it to the others. But the scheme is always unsustainable and will eventually collapse. When it does, lots of folks will lose their “investment”.
I’ve represented victims of schemes who tried to get their money back after the scheme collapsed. In so doing, I’ve met some of the bosses of those schemes face to face when they agreed to come to the office to discuss the matter.
From those meetings, one thing struck me: they are exceptional charmers. They speak convincingly. They look like normal people and they appear sincere. When the scheme collapses, they talk as if they have no idea what happened, as if it was unexpected.
They readily make promises. In the case of my clients, promises to return the cash would be made effortlessly, but then they seem to disappear off the face of the earth.
Keep in mind, in the beginning, the pyramid scheme bosses don’t market it as a “scheme” or as a “fraud” but as an “investment opportunity” that you can’t afford to pass up.
The key to not getting caught in the scheme is to be able to recognise it. The attraction is real, because there will be true stories of persons who did see crazy returns of their “investment”. But chances are, you will not be one of those.
That’s how the scheme works. It ultimately has too many investors, and not enough money to go around, because the source of the pay-outs is that $1,000 buy-in used in my hypothetical example above, and not any actual investments.
Perhaps one other insight as an attorney acting on behalf of victims trying to recover the funds lost through these schemes… the success rate of retrieving the monies may be almost nil. This is usually because the bosses of the schemes give fake addresses, telephone numbers suddenly are out of service and the individual cannot be found.
Be safe out there Trinidad and Tobago.
Copyright © 2020 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general informative purposes only. It does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. For legal advice on your specific situation, please contact an Attorney-at-Law of your choosing directly. Liability for any loss or damage of any kind whatsoever allegedly incurred a consequence of using content in this article is thus hereby excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law.