Mailbox: Resisting too-good-to-be-true offers

Cape Town - A 24-year-old Fin24 user has had three encounters where he was offered to join what he thought were pyramid schemes.

He shared his story in response to the news that the National Consumer Commission has launched an investigation into nine suspected pyramid schemes.

READ: Ponzi scheme alert as 9 businesses under scrutiny

Fin24 user Armand writes:

In three years I have been approached by three different pyramid type schemes but luckily due to the belief that "if it is too good to be true, it probably is" I stayed away from these schemes.

The first time was in my post-graduate year. During this year I had a small mobile disco where I would do varsity hostel functions/dances. One hostel in particular enjoyed my services and I made a good contact with the hostel's student council.

After one function he came to me informing me of a good business deal in which many of the students in his hostel were taking part. He extended an invite to their next meeting to show me how I can make easy money.

Being a student and hearing that many other students were also taking part, I considered the opportunity to make a bit more money and accepted his offer to attend the meeting.

On the evening (where the hostel then booked a lecture hall and rented equipment from the varsity) there were four older people (not students) that presented this "wonderful" idea of living healthy and making money while you do it.

Then making money depending on how many more people you bring into the fold. The meeting lasted 90 minutes, where after they dropped the bomb of subscribing and thereafter your gains will be more than the interest rate you receive at a bank.

My biggest concern now is, this is not just an individual, this company had its grasp on an entire hostel and their leadership.

Informal gathering at church

The second instance came as a disguise. I met this person at an informal gathering at church for young working youths. At the function he also stated the concept of a wonderful business idea on how I can make easy money and the typical sales pitch.

This person came at me from a business angle because at this stage I was a junior project manager for an IT company that specialised in building websites and apps. I thought he wanted ideas on a new website as he was a junior manager at a mall in Johannesburg.

I scheduled a meeting to discuss his business idea and with his status, education and knowledge I did not foresee what was coming. He started off by giving me a brochure and then going on about this "wonderful" idea.

I immediately started to connect the dots and was a bit frustrated. Once he was done I excused myself and left him and thereafter never contacted him again.

He phoned me a few times to hear if I made up my mind and kept telling me "He will not force me but it is really a good opportunity".

Someone I considered a friend

The third and most recent incident was a month ago, from someone I considered a friend. At a meeting over coffee he mentioned that he had a good business proposal for me where he thought I would do good. (At this stage he and his wife were leaving their full-time jobs to start their own business).

I thought that they might need my assistance on something in relation to their business. So a few days went past and he phoned to confirm a time so he could sit with my girlfriend and I to discuss the idea.

I followed my gut feeling to ask for an outline of the idea so as to discuss this with my girlfriend beforehand so we would not go into it with no knowledge.

To my very sad ears he started describing the typical characteristics of a pyramid scheme. Immediately I wanted to help him as he told me he is already part of it, but he was not open to my opinions and knowledge around this and was already engulfed in the scheme.

After a few attempts I gave up and never contacted him again.

I truly belief in "if it is too good to be true, it probably is"!

Disclaimer: All letters and comments published in MyFin24 have been independently written by members of the Fin24 community. The views are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent those of Fin24.

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