Image via CrunchBaseFollowing is my personal experience on Helium ( http://www.helium.com/ ) Your experience can and will vary.
A long while back (several years ago) I joined a variety of places where you supposedly write things to make money (sort of freelancing). At the time, I thought Helium was interesting as it has a mutual rating community. Multiple people write articles about a single topic, then you are randomly asked to rate the articles (which is better of the two given).
So I wrote a few.
Then I realized the raters are all bigots.
They don't actually rate the articles based on quality. They just rate that they "like".
I wrote an article on "abandoneware". Legally, there is no such thing. Morally there is no such thing either. There is no such thing as "squatter's rights" to intellectual property. The #1 article claims "unsupported software" is considered "abandoneware". Others actually claimed a moral right to abandoneware as long as no harm can be proven. As predicted, my article ended at the bottom of the heap, even though I believe it is the most technically accurate of the 6 articles on that topic. That was in 2007.
So I abandoned the place.
In 2010, I was busted a scam called TVI Express, and I found a lot of writers were singing praises about TVI Express on Helium. So I gathered up all the facts I got, put in proper citations to actual news articles, and explained it's a scam, by citing all the inconsistencies, all the lies the distributors told, compared the structures to all the laws, and so on, and declared it a scam. (I'll reproduce the article below)
The article was rejected for "LOW QUALITY" that does not meet Helium's standards.
At least the #1 article is a "scam busting" one from Shawn Cornett of ExpertMLMReview. #2 and others are singing praises of TVI Express, and that's just bull****.
So there you go: I think Helium is a community of bigots, based on my experience. Its raters are not rating for quality. Of course, I may be bigoted as well. That's why this is a RANT.
--article reproduced below--
TVI Express is a scam, pure and simple. It deceived people on so many levels, and has continued to do so, it is being charged as fraud on 4 out of 7 continents, in only 2 years of existence. It is a pyramid scheme dressed up in MLM buzzwords and broken promises.
TVI Express IS NOT a Network Marketing Company
TVI Express used to describe itself as a combination of Internet, Travel, and Network Marketing. However, it can never properly describe what exactly is its product. In fact, if you go to TVIExpress.com website, you will find that it has no "product" page at all.
How can you be a network marketing company if you don't even have a product? Why are its members called "distributors" then? What are they distributing? Read their own FAQ for yourself:
3. Do I need to sell any products?
No. You don’t need to sell any products. TVI Express is a unique e-commerce opportunity allowing you to build the Business around the globe sitting at your home.
In fact, an Indonesia TVI Express "leader" Ms. Goernawan, told reporters that TVI Express is NOT multi-level at all.
Yet TVI Express describes itself as a network marketing company. Just look at the following quotes:
"Network Marketing — also Direct Selling or Multi Level Marketing is the most powerful system of free enterprise in our modern world, and it is the business model that TVI Express chose from the beginning."
"Today, TVI stands as the poster child for modern MLM done right"
"TVl's first month of sales was bigger than any other network marketing company known, and we're still exceeding sales projections."
"Network Marketing can be an amazing business opportunity, but it takes a lot of hard work, and we [TVI Express] are dedicated, above all else, to support each and every one of our distributors, from those just starting out, to the most experienced business leaders."
One wonders, if the company says it's network marketing, but but sells nothing according to itself, what does it sell?
TVI Express' product is itself
Actually, TVI Express FAQ answers the question... what does it sell? The answer is simple: it sells itself.
5. What do I need to do to cycle out of the boards?
The first thing you need to do is sponsor two (2) people who join the TVI Express Opportunity. This will qualify you to cycle out of the boards as you progress ahead in the Compensation plan. Secondly, you need to encourage and teach those two downlines (people you sponsored) to sponsor more people and duplicate the process. Following these two simple steps will have you making money even while you sleep
In other words, recruit 2 people, sell nothing, teach them to recruit two people each, and you will make money.
That describes a PYRAMID SCHEME, which is ILLEGAL!
Pyramid schemes, also referred to as franchise fraud, or chain referral schemes, are marketing and investment frauds in which an individual is offered a distributorship or franchise to market a particular product. The real profit is earned, not by the sale of the product, but by the sale of new distributorships. Emphasis on selling franchises rather than the product eventually leads to a point where the supply of potential investors is exhausted and the pyramid collapses. At the heart of each pyramid scheme there is typically a representation that new participants can recoup their original investments by inducing two or more prospects to make the same investment. Promoters fail to tell prospective participants that this is mathematically impossible for everyone to do, since some participants drop out, while others recoup their original investments and then drop out.
This is where the TVI Express members will hem and haw. They will claim that the 7-day 6-night vacation you get is the product (however, that is a gift from TVI Express to the new member as an enrollment bonus, not a product for sale to OUTSIDE CUSTOMERS). They will claim that the membership itself, which supposedly gives discounts to travel, is the product (however, recruiter recruiting more recruiters is still a pyramid scheme). The two products will be studied later, but neither addresses the real concern: it is a pyramid scheme.
And it offers a BIG bait... chance to earn $10000 (+$5000 in company event travel voucher, but none are coming to your area, yet another lie!) but the payout is into your eWallet, not cash. It will cost you additional fees to convert that into real money you can spend. In fact, this eWallet business led to them being declared illegal in Namibia... operating as a bank without license.
TVI Express "benefits" are worthless
TVI Express members (note: NOT the company itself) claims that it has two products (or one, or the other), the 7-day 6-night trip, or the 'access to travel" via their back office. However, both are worthless as neither is what they appear to be.
The 7-day 6-night trip to 3-5 star hotel or resort and companion airfare arrives in the form of an e-certificate, of which the border was stolen off another website that provides similar services. You need to enter the e-certificate code into TVI Express "redemption website" (which is NOT the same as the "back office") and request redemption. There was NO public list of participating hotels except for two announcements by TVI Express in 2010, which listed about 150 hotels IN INDIA (and a few in Indonesia) and nowhere else.
What's even more surprising is TVI Express, starting in June, offers to cut your trip in half (i.e. 4-day 3-night), or else you need to pay extra $150 USD as "taxes and processing fees". In fact, you STILL need to pay taxes even if you take the shorter vacation, according to some members, just a bit less. And yes, this is via their own announcements.
Even if you are determined to take this trip despite the added fees and exotic locations, you still may not be able to. The redemption "portal" are randomly deactivated with no announcement whatsoever. You either need to buy extra vouchers (for the fees) to redeem the trip or in case of people in Indonesia, deposit money into your upline's personal bank account (!) to redeem the trips. TVI Express keep promising upgrades to the redemption portal every few months. It started operation in January 2009, but did not put out a proper redemption portal until June of 2010! And even then it was reputed to stop working randomly or not accept voucher amounts.
The trips are essentially, worthless, unless you live in or near India.
What of the "back office" where one can supposedly book trips all over the world? Closer examination of the page source revealed the back office to be relabeled version of Travelocity, through its affiliate program World Class Travel. WCTravel.com offers a "custom-label portal" with full power of travelocity to affiliates, and that's what TVIExpress got. The actual reservations goes to res99.com, which is owned by Travelocity. Or in other words, you could have gotten the same booking engine for FREE simply by going to Travelocity.com
There is even a video comparison on MetaCafe comparing TVI Express and Travelocity, searching for the trip between same two cities. The icons and prices are identical.
Thus, the alleged products are worthless. The trips are impossible to redeem to places you don't go, and the back office can be accessed for free elsewhere.
So what is the $250 for? To "qualify you for payment" in a pyramid scheme, of course.
TVI Express has No Real Corporate Office or Officers
TVI Express claims to be headquartered in London, UK. Yet their own address page gives an address over 15 miles from downtown London (in Uxbridge, NOT Heathrow as they claimed). Checking through Google Maps shows that no less than 18 businesses share that exact same address, no suite number, no room number, but the EXACT same address. The building is owned by Regus, a well-known officer and virtual office provider. Furthermore, TVI Express announcement says that they only accept walk-in visits "by appointment". This suggest that the corporate address in UK is a virtual office and any meeting room is rented by the hour.
TVI Express also lists an address in Cyprus. However, Cyprus is well-known to be a haven for "off-shore companies" and money laundering for the Russian Mafia and Al-Qaeda. Further research via Google shows no less than 5 companies listing the same address as TVI Express, leading one to suspect it is yet another virtual office.
TVI Express did not list ANY corporate officers or leadership team. The only person who 'represented' TVI Express with any consistency is Tarun Trikha, member of advisory board. He had appeared in various TVI Express "conventions" either personally or via video conference. However, according to TVI Express website, the advisory board is composed of top distributors. Yet in those conventions where Tarun Trikha gave interviews and in other conference calls, Tarun Trikha came across as the ONLY person in the know, with back channels straight to the top of TVI Express. In fact, he was outright called "Owner and CEO" by many TVI Express members. Ponder the ethical problems... Can the CEO of a MLM enroll himself as the first member? Is that even LEGAL?
It gotten so bad, Tarun Trikha's name quietly disappeared from the TVI Express advisory board sometime during October 2010.
TVI Express Is In Legal Trouble All Over the World
China is the first to openly attack TVI Express. Members there claimed all sorts of fantastic legal excuses, such as "e-commerce is legal", but China started investigating TVI Express members in June of 2009 when reporters started to report the story. Arrests started in August 2009 and publicly reported events shows at least 7 arrested, and 3 convicted and sentenced.
Police in Sikkim, India investigated TVI Express locally after complaints, which lead to TVI Express issuing 6000 refunds in March 2010, while admitting no wrongdoing.
In May 2010 Australia slapped 3 local TVI Express promotors (calling themselves TVI Team Oz) with an injunction from operating and also froze their bank account. One of the members deliberately ignored the injunction and withdraw all her money by going to different branches and withdraw smaller amounts, leading to additional contempt of court charges.
State of Georgia in the US issued a cease and desist order for "TVI North America", a few "leaders" in that state, to stop operating ASAP as it is operating fradulently. One of the leaders, Patrick Dejour, contacted TVI Express immediately, seeking assistance to appeal but received no reply, and the cease and desist order became permanent after 21 days. Mr. Dejour admitted his mistake into leading members into a scam and published all 7 pages of the order on his Facebook account and asks all TVI Express members in the US to cease operation immediately (or face prosecution like he did).
In Early November 2010, Bank of Namibia issued a formal warning against TVI Express and one other company, calling them frauds, performing banking activities illegally in Namibia.
There were also reports of TVI Express fraud in Takjistan, Georgia (the country), Indonesia, Vietnam, Spain, South Africa, Brunei, and other countries, and reports of local investigations into this international pyramid scheme.
TVI Express is a Scam
TVI Express triggered many red flags when it comes to MLM litmus test: no product, no company transparency, legal trouble all over the world, and so on. One wonders how can one argue it is a legitimate opportunity at all. There are many other signs of fraud and suspicious behavior, this article cannot cover them all.
TVI Express members and supports will either lie, or not mention all these facts that you can easily verify by doing some research yourself. And then they will trot out the standard excuses like "you don't understand us". Learn how to separate opinion from fact, and base your decision on the facts listed above.
TVI Express is not worth your time or effort, and may in fact land you in legal trouble. Stay away.