Illegal pyramid schemes take many forms.  Year after year since 2015 I have warned you about the Secret Sister Gift Exchange, which keeps reappearing each year around the holidays.   It seems harmless enough when you see it come up in your email or on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter where it has increasingly been found.  It starts when you are  provided  a list of six people.  You are told to send a gift worth at least ten dollars to the first person on the list, remove that person’s name from the list, move the second person on the list to the first position, add your name to the end of the list and then send the list to six of your friends.  In theory, you will receive thirty-six gifts for your small contribution of ten dollars.

So where is the harm?

First of all, it is a blatantly illegal chain letter and violates Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1302.  In addition, like all chain letters, ultimately, it is destined to fail because it is a pyramid scheme where eventually we run out of people on the planet to maintain the scheme.  Now a scam similar to the Secret Sister Gift Exchange has reappeared.  It is the Blessing Loom and it first appeared in 2016, but has come back strong. and, particularly with so many people concerned about their finances due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is scamming more and more people desperate for cash. Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the State of Arkansas sued the people behind the “Blessings in No Time” (BINT) investment program alleging that they operated an illegal pyramid scheme that stole tens of millions of dollars from unwary consumers.

According to the FTC, the defendants lured people into joining the program by falsely promising investment returns of as high as 800% which in and of itself should have been a red flag that you are dealing with a scam.  Some victims of this scam paid as much as $62,700 to participate in the program.  According to the FTC, BINT is a pyramid scheme where the so-called investment returns were merely derived from the payments made by other members of the program.  For every member who may have received a promised payout, eight additional members had to pay into the scheme.  Like all pyramid schemes, it was doomed to fail because ultimately, there aren’t enough people on the planet to keep it going.

TIPS

Like the Secret Sister Gift Exchange, BINT is nothing more than a repackaged chain letter.  You should avoid all chain letters regardless of the guise under which you receive them.  They are illegal and ultimately due to fail.  Even if you are an early “investor” in the program who received payments, those payments are generally “clawed back” by law enforcement when they crack down on th4e scam.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

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