Cape Town - Stories shared by numerous Fin24 users tell a tale of loss, regret and disillusionment, with victims losing anything from R500 to a combined toll of R1.3m from a single family group.
MMM, the online Ponzi scheme that collapsed in South Africa and Nigeria in 2016, started a new recruitment drive and a fresh pyramid this year, offering a Bitcoin-based currency to its users.
A user has this to say about Bitcoin: "The trick about this MMM is they eat people's money through Bitcoins... We know that one person can open even 100 Bitcoin accounts, all of them having different account numbers and you can't trace a Bitcoin account like we do in bank accounts, so that's how they take people's money."
A victim told Fin24 that many disgruntled members are simply too scared to speak to the media, because they get bullied by those higher up in the pyramid. People who do tell their story are verbally abused on social media and on WhatsApp, the victim said.
One user believes people have lost money because of an incorrect understanding of the way the scheme works: "I lost nothing 'cause the R100 000 that I left at MMM is not from my pocket but referral bonuses.
"MMM ideology states MMM correctly and people ignore the facts. Shame to those who ignored warnings which say participate with spare money. Forward we go with MMM and down with loans."
But one user, who is sadder and wiser after losing R12 000, commented: "We all thought the government was just jealous that we're making more money in a few months, but now we see that they were trying to help us."
One user placed the blame for victims' losses squarely on Fin24, saying he could claim this "with certainty because you disturbed the confidence that people had in the system caused it to crash, just like if there was confidence lost in a bank and then people make a run for their money."
Fin24 users, who will be kept anonymous to protect them from abuse, have the following to say about their losses:
MMM victim #1: R50 000 lost
"I lost R50 000 after the freeze."
MMM victim #2: R18 000 lost
"My mom lost R18 000 on MMM, which she invested early last year. Sometime this year, by February she filled in some online forms saying they will process the payment but even till this day no amount has been paid."
MMM victims #3: R1.3m lost
"My family and l are also victims of this scam. My cousin lost R100 000, my sister R500 000 and l lost R700 000. Please keep alerting every living human being that MMM is a big SCAM!"
MMM victims #4: R40 000 lost
"My wife and I lost more than R40 000 through this Ponzi scheme and this guy should be arrested. We had created four accounts in order to make quick wealth. Guys! Success only comes from hard work."
MMM victim #5: R130 000 lost
"I have lost more than R130 000."
MMM victim #6: R10 000 lost
"I lost R10 000".
MMM victim #7: R80 000 lost
"Please just crash this whole system for once and for all. I have lost R80 000 but I can survive without it. Some people can't survive without the money they have lost and I feel really bad for them."
MMM victim #8: R12 000 lost
"I joined MMM in February 2016... and I deposited R12 000... still we didn't get our money back and still people are busy depositing money even now, with the aim of getting interest and becoming millionaires."
MMM victims #9: R5 000 lost
"I also lost 4k on this scam. My mom lost 1k as well... I would like to warn ppl in the new MMM. Please stay away from it."
MMM victim #10: R60 000 lost
"I've lost R60 000 in totality; it's been difficult to cope since then."
MMM victim #11: R20 000 lost
"I also lost R20 000 having participated (in) ... these Ponzi shenanigans... If there is any assistance of some sort please help. We are the government's poor of the poorest. We were just trying our luck."
MMM victim #12: R5 000 lost
"I have lost R5 000. My hope was big but after a month all just disappeared."
MMM victims #13: R15 000 lost
"My fiancé and I... invested R15 000 and hoped that it would grow to enable us to pay for our wedding, but lost everything... It shows us there is no such thing as easy money."
MMM victim #14: R5 000 lost
"It was working very well at the start. I just don't know what happened. My sister lost R5 000."
MMM victims #15: R212 000 lost
"I have lost R12 000. My sister and brother-in-law have jointly lost R200 000 all in April last year."
MMM victims #16: R24 000 lost
"I lost R2 000 for MMM and R2 000 again for pipcorn, another scam from MMM. My wife lost over R20 000... it seemed that we have applied for poverty with our money. It's so painful."
MMM victim #17: R2 600 lost
"In 2016 I donated R2 600... until now I haven't got my money back. Really it's a pyramid scheme."
MMM victims #18: R11 000 lost
"I donated my last R1 000 in March 2016, I lost all of it when it froze, my friend lost R10 000."
MMM victims #19: R25 000 lost
"My husband and I lost R25 000 after system froze. We never even received a cent from MMM. Biggggggg Scam!"
MMM victim #20: R500 lost
"I read your article on MMM and I too have lost money, R500."
MMM victim #21: R15 000 lost
"Yes, I too lost R15 000 to MMM."
MMM victims #22: R70 000 lost
"Regarding your article - I have lost R50 000 and my wife lost R20 000...."
MMM victim #23: R2 000 lost
"My wife lost R2 000 in April when the so-called Mavros ran dry and investors where left dry as there were no new members for the scheme to feed off'."
- Editor's response: MMM victims are not necessarily asking to remain anonymous, but we have decided to protect them from online attacks. Fin24 calls on all victims to share their stories so that we can start getting an understanding of how much people have lost due to MMM. Have you lost out? Email Fin24 now.
Disclaimer: All letters and comments published in Fin24 have been independently written by members of the Fin24 community. The views are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent those of Fin24.