By Ted Nuyten
Randy Gage is a thought-provoking critical. He is the author of eleven books translated into 25 languages, including the New York Times bestsellers, Risky Is the New Safe and Mad Genius.
He has spoken to more than 2 million people across more than 50 countries, and is a member of the Speakers Hall of Fame.
Randy Gage is an active network marketing distributor.
“As most of you know, I released a Manifesto about the MLM and network marketing profession back in 2009.
It rocked the profession because I exposed “MLM junkies,” sweetheart deals, and sleazy marketing techniques like frontend loading.
Now I’m about to do it again. At 12:01 December 1st, I will be releasing the follow up: R.I.P. MLM. Because frankly I am disgusted at what has happened to our business in the last two years. It’s become a cesspool of corruption, manipulation, and exploitation.
A perfect example is what is happening now in the cryptocurrency and forex space. Thousands of innocent people are being victimized on a daily basis. So in the public good, I’m releasing an excerpt from the Manifesto, detailing how these crooked hustlers are hurting people. Please read it carefully, so you understand these issues and can protect both yourself and your team. – RG
Here’s the Excerpt:
Probably the worst hustle happening in our space over the last year has been the rip-offs posing as cryptocurrency network marketing companies.
These scams use the publicity and interest about cryptocurrencies, to hijack the credibility these new currencies have. They prey on the multitudes who aren’t that cognizant of developing technologies – and lead them to believe they are investing in the next Amazon, Yahoo or Twitter.
To set the stage, let’s go over a BASIC overview of what a cryptocurrency is. Cryptocurrencies are “virtual coins” that are “mined” by computers completing complex algorithms.
Cryptocurrencies are called alternate or digital currencies, because they don’t have a physical form like coins and regular currency. They exist on a shared data network (called a blockchain), and are independent of any central bank or government.
Now blockchains are an amazing innovation, one that will have many positive uses across many industries. Blockchains use cryptography to secure transactions, control the creation of additional units, and verify the transfer of assets. But we won’t go into all of that here.
We’re only going to look at their use for “mining” and trading cryptocurrency – and how that has been perverted as a cover to create scams masquerading as MLM or network marketing opportunities.
You can think of cryptocurrencies as a way to store value, similar to how you might hold gold or other precious metals as an investment.
But for it to be a viable currency, it means people have to actually trade it to buy things.
And when was the last time you actually paid for something with bitcoin, or another form of cryptocurrency? This doesn’t mean that bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies won’t actually reach a point where they are freely used as currency, only that it hasn’t happened yet.
And actually, if you did pay for something recently with bitcoin, you probably made a very foolish decision. Because bitcoin has been on a steady rise in value since its inception, breaking $1,000, $3,000 and as I’m writing this, more than $7,000. That’s great if you’re an investor, right? But not very conducive to using it as a currency.
(As a side note, the first documented bitcoin transaction was to pay for a pizza order. According to the bitcoin market value as I write this, that tasty lunch cost more than $7 million. So hopefully they got extra cheese, or a free refill on the soda.) The problem with cryptocurrencies for network marketing…
Being a Libertarian who chafes at government meddling and control in my personal life, I’m intrigued by the whole idea of cryptocurrencies. In fact, readers of mine will know that I predicted their emergence years ago in my Risky Is the New Safe book.
My favor towards them is based upon my skepticism to trust the viability of any government currency. After all, government budgets are the biggest Ponzi schemes the world has ever known. Currencies like the dollar, peso and pound do not hold any intrinsic value; they are simply promises to pay. They can be valued and devalued by the whims of a government bureaucrat. (And constantly are.)
So regarding the concept of cryptocurrencies, I’m a big fan. They have the potential to facilitate secure, authenticated transactions between a buyer and seller, without the intervention of a bank or a government.
But to start a network marketing company and build the product line around a cryptocurrency, is simply a laughable idea.
It would be like starting an MLM company and announcing that the product line was the U.S. dollar or the Japanese Yen. What would be the business proposal?
“Buy this $20 bill for $27 and maybe next year it is worth $30.”
Whether we use bitcoin, the U.S. dollar, or the British pound, none of these things is a value producing asset. They don’t generate earnings or pay dividends. They are simply a trading play. You can bet they go up, or bet they go down.
People who invest in a cryptocurrency today are betting it is going to rise in value. They’re not likely to use it to purchase anything. So it’s not really acting as a currency, but an investment vehicle. So you can make the argument that you are a currency trader. But cryptocurrencies are certainly not a viable product line for a direct selling or network marketing company.
So how do the cryptocurrency companies claim to be viable network marketing opportunities? That’s where ICOs come in…
ICOs (initial coin offerings) are the cryptocurrency equivalent of a stock market IPO. And just as much of a crapshoot. (Actually, probably a lot more.) Here’s how they work.
Usually an ICO involves a company raising money by selling a new digital currency. If you buy it, you receive a “token” which they assign a value to. But unlike an IPO in the stock market, the token does not give you any ownership rights in the company, or entitle you to any sort of cash flows like dividends.
If that cryptocurrency succeeds and appreciates in value — completely and totally based on speculation — you make a profit. But remember, there is absolutely no regulation or safeguards on this. The company that issues the tokens, can often manipulate the value in a way that benefits them. What do governments think about ICOs? Not much. They are eyeing them with wariness in some cases and outlawing them in others.
Personally, I believe ICOs will be the biggest area of fraud and victimization in the business world over the next couple years. They are ripe for abuse.
And of course, we already have people doing that in our space…
In the most flagrant example, a company opened by hyping bitcoin, and trying to mislead people like they were an early stage investor in bitcoin. It was presented much like an ICO launch, but wasn’t actually even that.
That company actually offers “educational packages” at prices from 100 euros to over 100,000 euros, offering tokens with the packages. The educational materials are tepid at best, and plagiarized at worst. And the tokens they come with have no intrinsic value, and are not negotiable for any other currency. They’re only viable in the internal money game of defrauding unsuspecting victims.
At one point, the company claimed their tokens were the first cryptocurrency in Asia. They were touting documentation licensed by the Vietnamese government, with legal rights to be used as a digital currency. However the Vietnamese government issued a statement that the document they were presenting as proof was actually forged.
The scam has been operating around most of the world with great hype. But it was noticeable that they never opened in the U.S., probably recognizing that doing so would result in prison sentences for the founders if they did.
The company appeared to think they could avoid legal scrutiny by claiming that they weren’t actually selling cryptocurrency, only educational materials. But spend ten minutes reviewing any of their distributor videos or live events, and you’ll see that most of the time they’re talking about investing in cryptocurrency with the educational materials barely even mentioned.
In the last few months, they have faced withering legal issues. Italy enacted an interim injunction against them, the Hungarian central bank declared it a pyramid scheme, and company leaders have been arrested in India and China. Among all this disarray, the founder has been missing in action, most likely trying to stay off the grid and avoid being arrested someplace. So you might think this company’s days are numbered, and we could lower our vigilance.
Unfortunately, the situation is completely the opposite…
There are literally dozens of network marketing cryptocurrency scams popping up. Most of these are more outrageous than the original. They are the perfect petri dish for development of the “greater fool theory.” (The premise of the theory is that the price of an object is determined not by any intrinsic value, but instead by irrational beliefs and expectations of market participants. A price can be justified by a rational buyer under the belief that another party is willing to pay an even higher price.)
And these new scams are making the most of this ignorant and irrational greed…
The scary part is these are getting more sophisticated each time. The original scam never published a white paper or actually offered an ICO. It’s doubtful if they really have a blockchain. But these subsequent scams have built on the duplicity of the original and are taking the hype even higher. They’ve learned all the right buzzwords and woven them into the marketing pitches.
One of the recent ones I saw publishes a “roadmap,” starting with their ICO, and then making projections of what the value of their token will be at each stage of their anticipated product development. It’s just sophisticated enough to fool the “semi-educated” dot-com billionaire wannabes who fall for this sort of hype.
I just saw that there are now people on Fiverr offering to write a white paper for your ICO for prices for $80 to $200! Wait until these cryptocurrency MLMs see that. This is like like someone offering to do a how-to video on open heart surgery for $75. Mark my words: these ICOs – both in and out of MLM – will be the biggest bloodbath of rip-offs in decades.
As if that were not bad enough, this cryptocurrency hype is now bringing back the forex schemes…
I won’t waste much time on these, other than to say they’re currently enjoying a dead cat bounce, taking a concept that has already been proven to be a horrible model for network marketing, and breathed life back into it for gullible people.
If you want to become an investor or day trader in currencies or cryptocurrencies, have at it. But don’t be foolish enough to believe that they are a viable product for network marketing. They’re not.
If the top executives have previously been involved in schemes that were closed down by the government, they have not, “had a very distinguished career in the Network Marketing industry.” All they’ve learned is how to operate illegally and get shut down. We can argue that they’re slow learners. But if you follow them, then you’re the real idiot.
Essentially, these new MLM token and forex schemes are actually in effect a “stupid tax,” victimizing the average people who have no clue about developing technology such as this.
But there is some good news in all this. Really good news…
And that news is, a lot of the people promoting the kinds of schemes we’ve been talking about here are going to go to prison. The big house.
Because here are the two new dynamics that these rocket scientists haven’t taken into account…
1) It used to be that when regulators shut down a Ponzi scheme or pyramid program, they would only go after the owners and company executives. Those days are over. What the government response after Vemma and Zeek Rewards has demonstrated is that in the new reality – the government is going after distributors who have profited from illegal schemes.
Here’s what that looks like, if you’re one of those distributors:
Your program is shut down with a temporary restraining order and your income, and the income of everyone on your team dries up overnight. You start receiving calls, emails and texts from friends and family that have lost their money. People start looking at you cross-eyed.
You hang on for weeks, because the company keeps telling you they’re legit and will ultimately prevail. You’re borrowing more and more money to pay for that flashy house, cars and bling-bling you bought to impress prospects.
Your company doesn’t get reopened, it gets permanently closed. Now you’re seriously underwater. And then the agents come to your house…
They say something like, “Okay, it looks like you earned $200,000 in this illegal pyramid. We’re demanding all of that money back. And with the interest and penalties, it now comes to $250,000.
“And that $75,000 in business expenses you deducted on your income tax are now disallowed. Because there are no deductions for operating a pyramid scheme. So we’ll need that $75,000 back. And with the interest and penalties, that will be…”
I can go on, but you get the picture, I hope.
So on the bright side – instead of bouncing into a new scam two weeks after their last one has been closed down, these people are going to be too busy meeting with attorneys and borrowing bail bond money from their moms to be preying on the next batch of victims. Which leads us to new dynamic number…
2) The people in these cryptocurrency and forex schemes are no longer selling vitamins, skin crèmes or protein shakes. It will be very easy for the regulators to make an airtight case that what they are really promoting is speculation and investments. And investments require real accreditation, are dramatically more legislated and offer swift and serious prison time for offenders.
Remember that scene in Star Wars when young Obi-Wan Kenobi entered that bar on Coruscant?
“You wanna buy some death sticks?”
“You don’t want to sell me death sticks.”
“I don’t wanna sell you death sticks.”
“You want to go home and rethink your life.”
“I wanna go home and rethink my life.”
If you are involved in one of these types of programs above, you may want to go home and rethink your life.”