Saturday, July 30, 2011

Does Massive Vulnerability to Pyramid Scheme Hint at Deeper Problems in India?

Recently India had been rocked by a massive financial fraud known as "SpeakAsia". The company started almost two years ago and claim to be a "survey company" where participants just need to join, get monthly e-zine, and then take surveys to make money. However, casual examination of its compensation package revealed to be a thinly disguised pyramid scheme that relies on recruiting new members, who also subscribe to the program. The more you recruit, the more you "earn".

What is interesting about the phenomenon is the fervent defense by the "believers" of SpeakAsia, who shows all signs of being a brainwashed cult member, who can only recite "SpeakAsia is Great, death of all enemies of SpeakAsia" or its variants. Some even called upon death of the government as it is the only thing standing between them and prosperity under SpeakAsia.

Is there some thing to learn from this mess? Is there some deep-seated vulnerability of Indians to scams?

The Cult of SpeakAsia

In April and May 2011 TV Station did a massive expose on the scam, and lid started to came off the scam, which by then claimed two million members in and around India, even though the company is supposedly based in Singapore. Multiple agencies in India started investigating, and accounts were frozen, then unfrozen, then frozen again. COO was then arrested for financial irregularities and forgery. (See details )

What remains constant is massive amount of "popular support" by SpeakAsia members, who sprouted statements such as
india poor. Do u know why. coz some people like this word. Who r they. Who fight against saol to get down. They are bad man of india. Die badman of india. if u die than we can earn. We can rich we want to hear india is rich.
SAOL = Speak Asia Online

Basically, the only thing standing between them and prosperity through this scam is the government, so the government must go.

The calmer ones blame the government for freezing the assets of SpeakAsia so they lose their money:
But what about the people who have already put in thousands of rupees into this, because of the govt. taking action, the current investors are also not getting their money back!! is that not wrong ? shouldn’t the govt protect the investors’ interest ? 
SpeakAsia definitely did not help the situation by releasing a video portraying all challengers as the devil(s) incarnate (red cape and devil face).

(See screen caps of videos and the actual comments at
and )

Did all these people (let's say, HALF of the panelists, or 1 million) got brainwashed into trusting this SpeakAsia scam more than the government? Or is there some deep sense of distrust of the government that remained untapped until this fraud exposed it and exploited it?

Pyramid Scheme and Power of Reality Inversion

Pyramid schemes, when gotten large enough, can actually topple governments. Government of Albania was destroyed in 1997-98 by pyramid schemes and over 2000 people died in the chaotic aftermath. A series of pyramid schemes ensnared 2/3rd of population, according to IMF report, and it took several years for Albania's economy to recover.

In Colombia, a major Ponzi scheme ran by DMG Group (which also was used to launder money from drug trafficking) collapsed in 2008, and in a rare cooperation between nations, the head of the scheme, David Murcia Guzman, was extradited to the US, convicted of money laundering, and will serve 8-year sentence here, THEN remanded back to Colombia to serve ANOTHER 30 years sentence. The scam involved up to two BILLION dollars, and severely damaged the credibility of the Uribe government when it was revealed that two of President Uribe's sons were good friends of the head perp. Riots broke out in several cities and mobs appeared to ransack (or try to) DMG offices. Police had to use riot gas to disperse the crowds.

What's interesting is some of these people claim that David Murcia Guzman was doing the country a favor... by passing on some of the wealth to the poor.
But there was a twist to this Icarus-like story: many of the small investors in D.M.G. saw Mr. Murcia not as a swindler but as their savior and protested his capture in almost a dozen cities. They claim the government’s intervention in D.M.G., not the nature of its activities, caused the loss of their savings. A hunger strike by his most die-hard supporters, who want his release and the reopening of D.M.G., persisted well into January in the colonial heart of Bogotá.
... Supporters chanted “Crea en Dios y en David Murcia” (“Believe in God and in David Murcia”).
          ( link to NY Times Article here )

What is it about pyramid schemes that can lead people to see evil as good, and see villain as hero? The only thing to compare it to is a cult, and not merely a cult, but a DESTRUCTIVE CULT.

Pyramid Scheme as a Cult

Virtually every nation have laws against operating pyramid schemes, because the losers vastly outnumber the winners. European Union has laws under "consumer protection directive", and is a common set of laws across all European Union Members. In the US, the laws are slightly fragmented, as some is regulated by SEC, some by FTC, and some by individual states.

Indeed, such a problem is in India, where multiple agencies realized they don't seem to have laws to enforce on a company which is not physically present in India. While India does have a "Prize Chits and Money Circulation Fraud Law (anti-)" there is no National Agency to enforce this law. Instead, enforcement must be initiated by individual province. The National Reserve Bank of India, as well as Criminal Investigative Division (CID) and Economic Offenses Wing (EOW), of various provincial governments finally responded recently with arrests and freezing of accounts, but it is estimated that over 100 million dollars have already left India for accounts in Singapore.

And it is amazing how much support this scheme still has among the "Speak Asians", as they refer to themselves (actually, that's a company term, as one of its marketing campaigns is "I am a Speak Asian"). Do they exhibit any OTHER signs of cult membership? These are the signs from

  • Thinking in black and white terms  -- YES
  • Using a new language/cultic jargon  -- YES
  • Saying goodbye to all old friends and only seeing people affiliated with, or not critical of the cult -- PROBABLY YES
  • Creating distance from family, especially during holidays and family events -- UNKNOWN
  • Euphoric, yet simultaneously tired and worn -- PROBABLY YES
  • Humorless -- UNKNOWN
  • A change in diet and sleep patterns -- UNKNOWN
  • Low on money -- YES
  • Poor grades -- UNKNOWN
  • A dismissal of their life prior to involvement with the group as "all bad" -- UNKNOWN, PROBABLY YES
  • A change in goals, priorities, and life plan -- YES
  • Return to child-like behavior -- UNKNOWN
  • Dogmatic adherence to new beliefs/ideas, with the inability, or lack of interest to logically assess these new beliefs -- YES
  • Secrecy -- UNKNOWN

Wow, that's a lot of yes signs for something that wasn't supposed to be a cult at all.

Vulnerability to a Cult (of Money)

It is interesting that such a cult of money is often formed in the poorer areas of the world. Colombia, Albania, Indonesia, India... all have seen bouts of pyramid schemes where many are cheated of money, because they see the "potential" of such schemes, but not its illegality.

What do pyramid schemes offer? "Instant riches", enough to change the life of a typical family in those areas.

They don't care if it's illegal or not. They just want the chance, if they don't have to directly cheat, hurt, kill, or steal to get it. If you just TELL these people it's illegal pyramid scheme, they won't believe it. They can self-justify themselves into seeing it as "it's okay, it's not THAT illegal." Esp. if they are taught to see it as "introduce that other party to the opportunity so THAT person can also be rich like you."

It is also worth noting that these countries have rather low opinion of their governments in general. So words of the government are not always trusted by the people. After the DMG fiasco, 77% of the people in the area thinks things are going badly, and they blame the government more than DMG.

Add some mind-control techniques, and you got yourself something that acts like a cult, but is not a cult per se. There is no "leader" and there is no "dogma" (other than "_____ is great, join us.")


Pyramid schemes are illegal, as it leaves damage both financial and psychic. Members are basically brainwashed into believing in money and the scheme, and the conversion is subtle yet unmistakable.

It is important for all to be aware of such schemes, and alert authorities at first sign of trouble. The earlier you can get to the scheme, the less victims it will have.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There is no "Forever 27 Club", darnit!

This whole thing was invented by a bunch of media sensationalists!
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Mobile apps: do people honest don't expect people to fill the field?

I am running Coolendar, an interesting hybrid calendar / todo mananger. it's great on the PC.

However, there's no smartphone version. You're supposed to use the "mobile" website.

So I logged into it via my Google account. That works.

However, the "filter by hash tag" doesn't work.

What's more, the field doesn't display all the content in that field. Scrolling is impossible.

WHO THE **** designed it? It's "optimized for tablets", apparently!

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why "Avoiding Negativity" is stupid, and people advocating it is also stupid

This sign (pictured) was shown several times t...Image via WikipediaThere are some so-called motivation coaches (esp. MLM coaches, which goes under various names, like "attraction coaches", "networking coaches", and so on), that advocate "avoid negativity". This can be seen on many websites. In fact, some MLMers have even named the people who wants to give MLMers a "reality check" "dream stealers".

And that is just a STUPID idea. It's like trying to eliminate PAIN from your body.

Without pain, you wouldn't know when to stop doing what you're doing. You would hold your hand over an open flame until your hand burned to a charcoal crisp, and you would not even flinch.

Without negativity, you wouldn't know when to stop doing what you're doing either! You would continue to invest time and money and energy into a lost cause until you're in so deep, you can't get out, and you are HAPPY doing so!

What you need to do is eliminate IRRATIONAL FEAR AND DOUBT, NOT ALL NEGATIVITY.

If you eliminate all negativity, you end up being reckless as you have no sense of danger.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Did you ever read the "fine print" in those MLM 'contracts'?

In any sort of business, there is always a contract or agreement: you agree to do this, in exchange, I agree to do that. In a job, you agree to work for me, I agree to pay you. It is no different in a MLM.

If there is contract, just "recruit!" then it's obviously a pyramid scheme.

But even if there is a contract, there are hidden clauses with which the company can just discard you like rag doll after it no longer needs you.

Here are some such hidden time bombs hidden in "independent distributor agreements". 
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Two more comments about MLM stupidity

-- Carl Sagan, as quoted in Cosmos, PBS TV

When some people claim extraordinary things, they expect people to just believe them with simple claims (with NO evidence) or just a few bits of so-called evidence. This is especially true for MLM / Network Marketing. It seems every other MLM out there claim to make you immensely rich with virtually no effort. 

Such claims of get-rich-quick is obviously an extraordinary claim, and thus, require extraordinary evidence. And such evidence is NEVER forthcoming. Most evidence falls into following categories:

* it's so easy!  (i.e. I can do it, and so can you!)

It looks so easy on TV or in person, but did the speaker actually succeed? 

* just look at all this money and goodies I got here! 

Doesn't prove it's actually a success. Most luxuries can be rented. 

* it's new and therefore it's good!

New isn't always good. New disease is bad.

* just believe me and I will make you rich!

So is the guy a cult leader or a businessman? 

Here's some surprising (to some) statistics on a MLM company that will tell you who made money... and who did not.

Any one heard of YTB? aka Your Travel Biz? aka Zamzuu?

Here is the published figures on YTB, BY YTB, about who made money in their business in 2007, and who didn't.

For those of you who are challenged at math, or can't read charts, here's the simple and honest truth:

97% of reps made LESS THAN $2000 USD IN the ENTIRE 2007 under YTB, from the company's own numbers.


The top 3 guys on top (obviously the founders) averaged 3 million EACH that year.

Yet every single one of these "reps" paid THOUSANDS into the system "buying" a travel franchise, so they thought.

YTB later changed its name to Zamzuu, was sued and forced out of Illinois and California and paid millions in damages, and is believed to be going bankrupt. (See below)

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to use 48 Laws of Power for Evil (sort of)

Cover of "The 48 Laws of Power"Cover of The 48 Laws of PowerThis is NOT a "how to", but rather, how scammers use 48 Laws of Power to gain control over you.

What is 48 Laws of Power? It is a set of "rules" written by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers condensed from a lot of interpersonal relation tips. Some of them are especially useful for fraudsters:

Law 3
Conceal your Intentions
Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions.  If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense.  Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

This is how pyramid fraudsters operate:  lure people in with various promises of wealth, guide victims down the path, and by the time they realize the fraudster(s) have used them to suck in all FRIENDS AND FAMILY, it's too late (for them).

 Law 4
Always Say Less than Necessary
When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control.  Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike.  Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less.  The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

Scammers will say things just enough to create the impression that they have said more. They will evoke imagery so you can draw the rest of the picture yourself. It's like "Inception", where the mind creates its own people populating the imaginary world. A certain travel scam was very careful in NEVER stating who their corporate officers were, but gave some misleading "admiral" and so on "office bearers" that other people have assumed to be corporate officers. In a different part of the scam, they deliberated misquoted Warren Buffett so make it seem as if the scam was owned by Warren Buffett when it was certainly not!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Egotistic Non-Doctor claims she knows more about vaccination than anybody

Anti-vaccination people actually set up a booth at babies expo trying to promote their pseudo-scientific beliefs. What gall! Here's two of those fraudsters exposed on Australian 60 Minutes.

The white-hair one on the right is Viera Scheibner. She insists on being referred to ad Dr. Scheibner. What she doesn't tell you is that her PhD is in micropaleontology, i.e. study of little fossils. That's right, she has no medical training other than, by her own admission, a nursing course when she was young.

The woman on the left, Bronwyn Hancock, is even more idiotic. She's web developer and nothing more. She was once quoted as saying that there was no "shaking baby syndrome", and all shaking baby deaths were caused by vaccines.

Watch this segment and see how these fraudsters blame the parents for their child's death. Viera was quoted ON CAMERA saying that the parents of the baby that died of pertussis (whooping cough) killed the baby because they let the doctors immunize the baby for hepatitis B, which somehow made the baby more vulnerable to pertussis. When asked where is the proof of such, and whether could she be wrong, she walked out of the interview.

The danger of vaccine refusal is erosion of herd immunity.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why Do People use Pictures Not of Them in Social Profiles Any Way?

People are picking pictures of criminals, porn stars, and so on, as their social media profile pix.

Don't they know they look stupid doing so?
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Friday, July 1, 2011

Are Conspiracy Theorists More Receptive to Baloney?

Lenticular cloudImage via WikipediaConsider this... Conspiracy Theorists do not accept the "common" view of the events that happened. For whatever personal reasons, they chose to instead embrace a theory / world view that is vastly different (and frequently, completely illogical, when all evidence have been considered).

So it is not too surprising that some people consider them to be prime material for scams, is it? After all, scams require you to pretty much abandon logic and common sense, and instead believe baloney like "shortcut to wealth"

Let me introduce you to this funny as heck item: UFO MLM  (real name)

Here is its entry on MoneyMakerGroup:
"Don't take this for granted folks, the Conspiracy market is well over 1 BILLION people STRONG!! & NOT GOING AWAY any time soon, we're the first & ONLY Co. in the world to tackle this massive niche market from an MLM and a social networking perspective, not to mention this market continues to grow, & With What we have planed, we'll wake them up & recruit them in record Numbers."
Fortunately, this UFO MLM didn't live long. It started in 2009 and died in 2010. Apparently, not even conspiracy theorists like the taste of this baloney.

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