Watch out for this Facebook scam targeting MoneyAware readers!

posted by in Debt news

“Don’t talk to strangers” is a line that parents often drill into their kids from a young age. For me the phrase still brings to mind the image of the Child Snatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which terrified me throughout my childhood.

With the rise of social media, baddies can find out information about you at the click of a button. Knowing who we should and shouldn’t trust is even more important. The trouble is, not everyone out to scam you will look like undertakers dressed as clowns trying to entice you with free lollipops.

This time though, they’re targeting MoneyAware followers…

Sometimes they seem like perfectly genuine people who work for perfectly genuine companies, contacting you to say you’ve been mis-sold an IVA or that you’ve got a court hearing you knew nothing about.

That doesn’t mean that what they’ve got to say is anything less than fraudulent.

Recently we’ve found out that something similar is doing the rounds on Facebook. However, as they’re targeting their messages at MoneyAware followers things have got personal!

What’s happening?

We recently heard from a couple of people who follow MoneyAware’s Facebook page. They were sent messages from someone they don’t know who asked them to connect with him because they like the MoneyAware Facebook page. Here’s a screengrab of the message.

A screengrab of the the message our followers were sent on Facebook

A screengrab of the message

 

In case you can’t read it, the message says:

“Hi ABC

My name is XYZ.

Excuse the unusual approach.

Hope you don’t mind but may we connect please?

Got your name from MoneyAware on FB. I know how it feels to be in debt. My reason for contacting you is because I have something which may or may not interest you or someone you know.

This is a quick 2 minute video for you to watch if you like. If you have any questions of would like more information please met me know. Free training and support provided. Thank you.”

The message then includes a link to a YouTube video which tells people they can make lots of money by starting their own business in ‘health and wellbeing’, and to get in touch with the suspected scammer for more information. The video promises award winning training, the option to work in 158 different countries, and the chance to earn money in just a few hours a week. It’s all very tempting!

But you know what they say, “If it’s too good to be true…”

While it might sound like a great opportunity on the face of it, it’s always best to do some research of your own if you get a message like this, and watch out for what’s known as ‘pyramid schemes’.

What’s a pyramid scheme?

Pyramid schemes are usually ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes that are very risky and can end up costing you a lot of money. In the UK they’re illegal.

Genuine businesses are based on providing valuable goods and services, whereas pyramid schemes are scams based on drawing in more and more investors.

The way it usually works is that you pay a fee or make an upfront investment in the scheme in order to join. This money isn’t put towards the business, or invested in products, but instead is passed up the chain to those at the top. The only way to get your money back is persuade other people to join so that their joining fees are passed up the chain to you. That’s one of the reasons it’s called a pyramid scheme – there’s a lot of people at the bottom of the chain and only a few at the top.

According to Which? members of pyramid schemes do sell goods and services, but usually to other members rather than to customers. Also the goods and services they sell are usually low in value, such as booklets that promote the scheme, rather than any sort of legitimate product.

Although the people at the top make money from those lower down the pyramid this usually becomes unsustainable, and at that point the scheme folds, leaving those at the bottom of the pyramid out of pocket.

As pyramid schemes are fraudulent and unauthorised, it’s very unlikely that those involved in pyramid schemes are able to recover their money.

How can I tell the difference between a pyramid scheme and a genuine business?

Fraudsters who run pyramid schemes try to make them look like legitimate businesses, and will often have website or produce promotional materials (like the video our followers were sent!) to convince people that they’re genuine.

However there are a few things that should set warning bells ringing that a business is actually a pyramid scheme:

  • You’re asked to join a group or scheme where you make money by recruiting new members
  • You’re told the business will help you make money quickly with little or low risk
  • You have to pay an up-front joining fee, invest in the scheme or make another significant payment
  • The scheme involves selling low value goods or services that promote the scheme

What should I do if I’m approached to join a pyramid scheme?

If you’re approached to join what you believe is a pyramid scheme, you should report it to Action Fraud, the police’s fraud reporting centre.

Has MoneyAware or StepChange Debt Charity got anything to do with these Facebook messages?

No! The person who sent the message says he gets his contacts from our Facebook page – information that’s publicly available such as people who like or comment on our posts, or write messages on our wall.

If someone gets in touch with you to promote a scheme or to sell you a product because you follow StepChange Debt Charity or MoneyAware on any social media channel, please get in touch to let us know.

We respect the privacy of anyone we hold personal information about, and will not share this with third parties without your prior consent. You can take a look at our privacy policy on our website for more information, or if you have a question please feel free to comment below.

Laura Davies joined the MoneyAware team in May 2014 from a background in public relations. Outside of work, Laura enjoys travelling, reading, drinking tea and spending too much time on Buzzfeed.

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Tags Debt news
  • Thank you for highlighting this, I received one of these messages myself and was really disgusted at the way this person has deliberately targeted people who are following a debt advice charity. I hope no vulnerable people are taken in by these scammers!

  • Gabrielle Hodge

    Thank you for confirming this. I got a similar thing but as soon as they asked for personal information, I deleted it. I will know now to refer these to Action Fraud.

  • Jo

    This is not a scam, please get your facts right before posting an article which could potentially damage people’s reputations. I myself hold one of these businesses and I advise anyone I contact that it does require hard work. Pyramid schemes are illegal in the UK, the business I work with are government accredited. I am an honest person and would never scam anyone.

    • waynebaal

      You sound like a bit of a NOB, actually.

      • Kiera Wills

        Theres really no need to call her a nob. My friend works for a scheme that sends out messages like this..it is not a pyramid scheme. Its a genuine company called NuSkin! Theres no upfront joining fees, no obligation to purchase etc, you don’t even have to recruit new members you could just sell the products to your friends and family to earn a few extra pounds a week. The trick is to check the FACTS! Don’t immediately assume its a SCAM…this person could very well have good intentions and could be advertising a genuine company. The way in which she has decided to conduct her business is a little bit unethical to say the least!

      • waynebaal

        Oh….seems there are a lot of ‘schemes like these that are not pyramid schemes’, that are not pyramid schemes. Therefore, your ‘schemes’ are not part of this discussion. I apologise for my profanity, but we are talking specifically about pyramid schemes. If you say you are working for one that is not, then that is fine. I am sure your advertising wasn’t the type flagged up in this original article. As such, why are you commenting?

      • moneyaware

        Hi there,

        I just wanted to let you know that we took the decision to moderate your comment. We encourage interaction and debate on our articles but we ask that you please respect the opinions of others and refrain from using profanities or abusive language. You can read our ‘Commenting Policy’ and social media guidelines here: http://moneyaware.co.uk/about/

        Kind regards,

        Laura

    • moneyaware

      Hi Jo,

      Thank you for your message and I’m sorry to hear you feel that
      the article could damage people’s reputations. This is something we were conscious of when writing the article, which is why we’ve blurred out the person’s face, name and place of work. The article was double checked by our Compliance team, who confirmed that it was an appropriate step to take.

      We found it concerning to hear that some of our followers had
      contacted with business opportunities specifically because they like us on Facebook, especially when there may be an upfront cost to some of these businesses. We have a responsibility to ensure people have information to help them make informed financial decisions, and this includes letting them know about any potential risks.

      The article encourages people to do their own research into any
      potential business opportunities they’re offered. As you mention, pyramid schemes are illegal and could cause people financial harm, so the article is a reminder for people to keep an eye out for the warning signs.

      I hope this addresses your concerns and thank you for taking
      time to give us feedback.

      Kind regards,

      Laura

  • Thank you for this post.
    I have first hand experience of what can happen to you when you get drawn into these so-called money making schemes.

    As a sufferer if “Parkinson’s Disease”, I was prescribed a drug called “Ropinirole”. This drug has the unfortunate effect on some people, of making them feel infallible and causes them to take uncharacteristic risks.
    In some cases this means the patient begins gambling, sure of the idea that they just cannot lose.
    In my case, I was taken in, by promises of untold riches if I signed up to programmes that promoted everything from “free” books to exotic holidays, “how to” videos and thousands of other “simple” ways to make money. All you were required to do was to pay a monthly subscription and persuade as many other people as you can to join you. The problem arises when your in initial “investment” fails, you’re introduced to a new scheme that is so good that it can’t possibly fail. Soon, you have spent so much time and money, that you feel that you are in too deep to stop and that you just HAVE to make it work.
    The promoters of these schemes, show off their fabulous cars and beech side mansions, telling you that it will only take a few months for you to achieve the same.

    Some even suggest that those prepared to take the biggest risks will achieve the greatest success.
    I am telling my story, in the hope that it will prevent others from falling into the same trap. I spent years of my life hiding a dreadful secret from my wife, family and friends, getting deeper and deeper into debt, until I had maxed out four credit cards.

    I was recommended by one of the card companies to get in touch with StepChange, who are now helping me to sort out my finances.
    I am extremely fortunate in having family and friends who are standing by me despite my actions, which are making it necessary for us to sell our house.
    In closing, my advice to anyone contemplating joining any schemes that promise untold riches is, DON’T DO IT!
    For anyone already losing money in this way, STOP NOW, tell someone and get help before it’s too late

    • moneyaware

      Hi David,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and share your
      experience. I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you, and wish you all the best as you take steps to get your finances bank on track.

      Kind regards,

      Laura

  • waynebaal

    Wow, it seems there are soooo many schemes like this that are totally legitimate. Sorry for my scepticism, but I think these people are liars. Oh, and scumbags, just as an addition. Scumbags, liars and *BLEEPS*. I did it myself 🙂 Self censorship. The way to go 🙂 C’mon people, these dickwads prey on the innocent! Is dickwads a banned word too? OK, these BLEEPS are total BLEEPS that prey on the naivety of others, coz they are total BLEEPS!

    • moneyaware

      Hi there,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on our article. Unfortunately, we’ve had to censor the word in question, to keep in line with our social media policy. We appreciate your efforts to censor the rest of the comment though 🙂

      Kind regards,

      Jen

  • Phil

    Hi Guys,

    I’m afraid this post is completely untrue..

    The company your stating as a scam is totally legit.
    I’ve got some family and friends who earn 6 figure salaries from it.

    It definitely is not a pyramid scheme, it’s MLM (Multi Level Marketing) or Network Marketing. They have a head office in the uk and need to comply with uk laws.. Pyramid schemes are illegal as stated in your information.

    This email has really concerned me as a company as big as you should really do you research before this type of slander.

    I’ve benefitted from CCCS and now stepchange over the last 7 years and recommend you to anyone with debt issues..

    If I can help put your compliance team at ease or give them any information then please get in touch..

    The persons approach may have been unusual but that will probably have been due to being new or inexperienced. The person should not have used your company to increase his network but it is 100% not a scam..

    Regards
    Phil

  • Edale

    I am so tired of this “pyramid scheme” I work for this company and I work bloody damn hard. I don’t scam people and I don’t prey on the vulnerable as suggested. People who believe the rewards from this company are too good to be true are too closed minded to sit and actually look at the marketing plan and business itself. I feel sorry for you, because you will sit there slagging it off from your keyboards in jobs you hate whilst were’re at home working with our family by our sides. If trying to help people to do the same is so bad, then I wish someone was this bad to me a long time ago.