Sunday 23 April 2023

'IM Academy' - yet another 'Amway' copy-cat cultic racket

Exposing The Cult: IM Academy - YouTube


'IM Academy' has again attracted the attention of the media and law enforcement agencies, this time in Spain where it is being described as a 'Crypto-Sect' i.e. 'Crypto-Cult.' However, 'crypto-currency' is merely the mystifying camouflage behind which the simple truth about 'IM Academy' has been hidden. This group (which was instigated in the USA in 2013) is, of course, yet another blame-the victim 'Amway' copy-cat cultic racket. Essentially, the bosses of 'IM Academy' are unoriginal con-artists who have been pretending that they were once ordinary poor humans, but who have discovered a secret knowledge which enabled them to transform into fabulously wealthy super-humans. They have been further pretending that they are prepared to share this secret life-transforming knowledge with anyone for a price - part of the price being the surrender of your critical and evaluative faculties.


Families in despair over IM Academy: ‘The crypto-sect has kidnapped our children’

Parents report that an online trading course is in fact a pyramid scheme that is ‘brainwashing’ young people and separating them from their friends and loved ones

 “They have kidnapped our children,” says a woman who has seen her daughter transform into another person in the space of two months. “They have turned her inside out like a sock.” This mother and around 40 other families are united through RedUNE, an association that works to prevent recruitment by sects. They are on the warpath against the New York-based IM Academy, a group that’s been called a “crypto-sect” and a pyramid scheme and which is under investigation by Spain’s police for fraud.

IM Academy, which supposedly teaches how to invest in cryptocurrencies, held a large event in the northeastern Spanish city of Badalona on April 9, attracting more than 9,000 young people from all over Europe. They came away believing they have found the magic formula to get rich without working; their parents instead believe their children are being “brainwashed” and turned into sales people for the company.

The story always begins with the courses that IM Academy offers online. “We didn’t see anything wrong with her doing it,” recalls Raquel, 53, who now regrets having paid for her daughter’s course. She, like the rest of the mothers in this article, used an assumed name to preserve what’s left of her relationship with her daughter. In two months, the latter dropped her studies to focus on “personal development,” which essentially means “recruitment and consolidation within the sect,” says Raquel.

IM Academy courses cost €150 a month. But if each student recruits two people, the training is free. With three recruits, members start earning money and climbing the ranks of the organization, turning into Platinum 150 members; with 12 new recruits, you become Platinum 600 (you earn $600) and so on until you reach the top, that of chairman with 30,000 subscribers. It is a “pyramid scheme sales practice,” according to the complaint that several families filed with Spain’s National Police, leading to the arrest of eight people on March 23. This newspaper has unsuccessfully tried to reach IM Academy for comment.

“You’re going to get rich. Your parents won’t understand, nor will your friends. You are a visionary who is aligned with today’s times,” says Raquel, recalling the lines that her daughter repeated to her. “She became a different person.” The day her parents refused to continue paying for her courses, “she took her backpack and left,” laments her mother. “She has forgotten her family, her group of friends… I don’t even know where she lives. And now I’m her enemy because I don’t understand her and I don’t support her.”

Another common element is speed. Ángela’s 18-year-old son began to be interested and he was suddenly hooked “24 hours a day.” His attitude changed. Ángela has managed to maintain a good relationship with him, but she is desperate. “The psychologist tells me that I cannot criticize the group,” she explains about the assistance she has received from the RedUNE support group. “He gets up, goes to the computer and when he goes out it’s just to recruit new people.” Angela is “tired, exhausted and pissed off” to see how her son has ended up “in a monetary sect.” He, too, has dropped out of school.

All of them have also developed “dialectical skills” that surpass their mothers’ own. “They teach them what to say at every step,” says Encarna, 58, whose 20-year-old son has joined IM Academy. He has gone from being “a normal guy who got good grades” to dropping out of school. “He says that’s an outdated paradigm,” she explains. And he is dedicated to “opening people’s eyes” and to “digital empowerment.” “They are young, smiling and they give you lessons on how to live life,” says Encarna. “They don’t teach them trading, they teach them abduction,” she says, adding she is fed up with her son’s glibness and how he is “always on everyone’s case” to try to recruit them. She is reaching her limit. But she is afraid that if she challenges him, she will lose.

Marta’s 19-year-old son dropped out of IM Academy three months ago, but he bears a grudge against his mother for it. In the half a year that he was in the group, he did things like writing a diary with phrases like “I’m Platinum 500, I’m successful, I have my cars.” He, like the others, dropped his studies. He has never been the same again. “He has not been vaccinated [against coronavirus]. He thinks that everything is a setup, even the war in Ukraine,” regrets his mother. He follows “weird groups” and makes “survival” purchases like matches or flashlights. “He has become obsessive,” she summarizes, and has “disconnected from his family.” Marta even doubts that, despite working and not having time, he has not returned to IM Academy. The problem, the woman repeats, is not that they are losing money, it is the “brainwashing” and the fact that they are being turned “against their parents.”

Marc, who is in his twenties, has participated in IM Academy talks. But he couldn’t see the allure. “Around 95% of it is talk, like a movie with a happy ending, not trading,” he says. He, unlike his brother, who is hooked on the crypto-sect, will not join. “Why would I go there? For a fool to tell me that I have a poor man’s mentality? No, thanks.”

How the fraud allegedly works

The judicial investigation into the activities of IM Academy in Spain focuses on allegedly fraudulent investment operations with cryptocurrencies. The online training courses and their pyramid structure are just the structure that supports everything else. The key to the network is what is known in the jargon of the academy as “signals”: investment orders in certain products that the leadership sends to the intermediate cadres and these, in turn, relay to the victims. On March 23, after a year of investigation, the police arrested eight people for an alleged scam that may affect more than 2,000 young people, some of them underage. Albert F., Iván B., Cristian A. and José Francisco T. are some of the suspects being investigated by a Madrid court. The initial complaint, on behalf of the victims, accuses them of fraud, misleading advertising, psychological coercion, criminal organization, and crimes against public finances and against the Social Security system.

The whistleblowers were young people who have gone through this phase, but who, after losing hope and money, abandoned a group that they say has elements of a cult. The online training is “nonexistent or scarce,” explains the lawyer who filed the complaint, Carlos Bardavío. The teachers’ effort shifts from trading to the need for students to attract other clients, and getting them to invest. Through a “referral link,” the leadership launches its “signals,” which are investment orders on certain financial products. Whether the operation goes well or not, the leadership always wins through commissions. And the alleged victims become an “instrument of the scam” because they end up recommending the operation to others.

The “team leaders” (the Platinums) forward those links by specific applications and Telegram groups. And so they also get a piece of the cake. They earn money, but not by investing, but because others close the operations previously recommended by the leaders. To convince the students, the recruiters show income statements with many zeros. According to the complaint, these documents are partial (losses are hidden), false or simple demos.

EL PAÍS copyright 2023

Monday 10 April 2023

Robert FitzPatrick proposes an 'Anti-MLM Declaration.'

Years ago, as part of an attempt to rescue members of my family from the clutches of the 'Amway' racketeers, I wrote to various individuals in the UK: including trade regulators, law enforcement agents, legislators, journalists, editors, etc. However, I got absolutely no serious response to my urgent concerns. What I said at that time, is in broad agreement with Robert FitzPatrick's new proposal for an 'Anti-MLM Declaration.' 

The following is part of what I originally-wrote in 1999 when there was no Anti-'MLM' Movement in sight:

What has become popularly-known as, 'Multi-Level Marketing,' has been neither multi-Level nor marketing. On the contrary, it has been a reality-inverting, self-perpetuating, cultic racket in which victims have been exposed (without their fully-informed consent) to long-established, co-ordinated, devious techniques of persuasion (social, psychological and physical) designed to shut-down their critical, and evaluative, faculties. In this way, millions of our fellow citizens (including members of my family in Yorkshire) have been temporarily dissociated from external reality and deceived into buying infinite shares of what can only be their own finite money; all in the false-expectation of a demonstrably-non-existent future reward. In exchange for their unlawful losing investment payments (which have been laundered as 'lawful retail sales'), 'MLM' victims have been given exorbitantly-priced (effectively unsaleable) goods/services. Whilst they have remained under the contol of the pernicious 'MLM' fiction, victims have been deluded de facto slaves dissipating their own physical, financial, social, family and mental resources in an attempt to lure others into the same blame-the-victim cultic trap. It remains unclear how much damage this historically-significant, but still unrecognised, criminogenic phenomenon has done, and is doing, to the UK economy, not to the mention the social, and psychological, damage it has done, and is doing, to our fellow citizens.

David Brear (copyright 1999)


International Association to Expose, Study and Prevent Pyramid Schemes
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April, 2023
From: Robert L. FitzPatrick

Dear PONZINOMICS Readers, Colleagues and Friends,

Saying It Loud

"ANTI-MLM" is now a bona fide, large-scale consumer movement reaching millions around the world. More than a "consumer" movement, ANTI-MLM is, first, a movement for Truth over Big Lie.

Movement status was achieved only within the last 5 years or so, after decades of being denied, discredited or ignored.

In this early stage, ANTI-MLM has no office, spokesperson, or treasury. These may come. It does have volunteers, activists, academics, attorneys, researchers, podcasters, collegial networks, Reddit subgroups, and international conferences. Victim silence and shame are breaking down. ANTI-MLM is now respected and recognized by the media. ANTI-MLM is growing.

ANTI-MLM has profound grievances against MLM – billions in consumer losses, millions of damaged lives, disrupted families, pseudo-economics distorting work values, false feminism to exploit women, deceptive income claims raising false hopes, quack health remedies, cult coercion, corruption of regulators, and pyramid scheme fraud on a global scale.

Yet, beyond grievances, ANTI-MLM is still formulating what it stands for. ANTI-MLM does not have a common definition or even description of MLM, and therefore does not have a unified position on what to do about MLM.

Is MLM just a bad "business" or is it racketeering? Is it a real "industry" with a competitive market and a trade association or just a Ponzi scam using lawyers and lobbyists to disguise and protect it? Is MLM a form of direct selling that just needs more "retail" or is it a calculated pyramid scheme that cannot be reformed? Are regulatory "rules" needed or a ban on "endless chain" financial schemes? As penalties for MLM CEOs and vanguard recruiters – fines and reprimands or jail time? Is the appropriate law enforcement agency the FTC that regulates trade or the FBI that prosecutes frauds?

PONZINOMICS is the first book to dissect and fully describe MLM, how it began, the "direct selling" disguise, pyramid scheme model, the lobbying and evasion of law, and its cultic character and methods. It's an ANTI-MLM textbook. Other books from new authors are coming soon, as well as new documentaries, podcasts and websites.

The facts of MLM are known. Irrefutable evidence keeps mounting of MLM's perverse identity and the gigantic scale of its harm. But Anti-MLM has not yet made its own, unifying "Declaration" of what MLM is, and what needs to be done about it.

To advance the movement and support informed dialogue, I offer a "Declaration" for ANTI-MLM (edited for brevity)

#1: MLM Is Not “Business”; MLM Is Not “Direct Selling”
MLM contracts are never voluntary. Necessary information is always withheld. A fair exchange of value does not occur. The MLM financial proposition is inherently deceptive and harmful. Sustained, profitable retailing – direct selling – is non-existent and impossible under "MLM."

#2: The Use of Business Terminology for MLMs Is Inappropriate and Misleading
Using conventional business terms is misleading, inaccurate, and reinforces MLM's "business" disguise. “Sales, distributor, profit, direct selling, compensation, bonus," etc., do not apply in describing endless chain/money transfer scams. "Manager, Executive, Coach, and Director," etc., misleadingly indicate managerial or decision-making roles in a real business, when they refer only to levels of pyramid recruiting.

#3: MLMs Are Essentially Identical; MLM Product-Transactions Launder Money-Transfers and Disguise MLM as Direct Selling
MLMs are distinct, recognizable, essentially identical. All exhibit an endless-chain structure, payment and recruiting mandates, and extreme money-transfers from later to earlier participants. All produce the same devastating loss rates. MLM product-transactions at fixed pricing are not market-based, not driven by consumer demand, but are induced costs for securing recruiting-chain positions and transferring money from later to earlier recruits.

#4: Multi-Level Marketing Is a Destructive Cult
To enroll, gain money from, control, and silence victims, MLMs use undue influence and coercive control, resulting in financial loss, damaged relationships and psychological harm. They lure victims with utopian false promises and claims of mystifying knowledge for gaining financial success and fulfillment. Recruits are indoctrinated to accept the "infinite" endless-chain as a financial model, that "belief" shapes reality, to shun family and friends who question MLM, to reject critical thinking, and to unquestioningly believe and strictly obey MLM leaders – while paying fees, purchasing products and recruiting.

#5: US Law Enforcement Policy toward Multi-Level Marketing Is Unfounded; Perpetuates Harm; Must Be Changed.
Evidence does not support US law enforcement's presumption of MLM legitimacy and neglect of investigation and prosecution. Decades of evidence irrefutably show:

  • Absence of profitable and sustainable retail selling – invalidating the MLM identity of "direct selling" and revealing a closed, rigged financial scam.

  • Annual loss rates among MLM participants in excess of 99% – invalidating MLM claims of "income opportunity" and revealing enormous harm to millions each year.

  • Pervasive and deliberate falsehoods regarding “direct selling” identity, costs, health claims, failure rates, business opportunity, and recruiting requirements – revealing systematic deception and intentional harm.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) should:
  • end the current policy of neglect and presumption of MLM "legitimacy"
  • initiate investigations of MLM structure, methods and consequences
  • refer findings to the US Dept. of Justice.