In the web of the MLM spider

By Laura TomassiniMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Multi-level marketing has been considered the new business model for years and it recruits people across the globe to join the network. Behind the promises of success and money, however, there is often a fraudulent scam that only becomes apparent on closer inspection. Part one of the report.

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Messages that advertise additional profits of at least 500 to 1,000 euros a month, promise more positivity and self-determination in life, and usually find their way into one's mailbox from strangers, have probably been received by most people between the ages of 18 and 35 via social media channels. "Hi there, you're between 25 and 50 years old, like to have fun in life, want to connect with positive, new people and earn a little extra while you're at it? Then comment with info, because I've got something for you!" is just one of the many ready-made copy-paste messages that invite you to join the chat or video call that is supposed to change your life.

We are talking about requests from so-called representatives, also called affiliates or sales leaders, of international multi-level marketing (MLM) or network marketing companies, who lure with vague promises of additional profit "on the side", a "business improvement from home" and virtual profiles that are bursting with "la vida loca". What is missing from most of them, however, is precise information about how this passive income is to be generated, let alone about which magical company is behind the request. Details are only revealed when interest is expressed and are only due to those who are, or want to become, part of the system.

#riskfreetrade on a risky market

Almost like an invisible veil, always present but seldom mentioned by name, the name IM (Mastery) Academy is spread across the vastness of the internet. With titles like "certified trader" or "chairman", the profiles of the self-proclaimed traders are brimming with success and joie de vivre – including the necessary cash flow. Almost daily, the IM representatives post stories on Instagram and the like about transfers and rising curves that promise money. The New York-based "Academy" uses cryptocurrencies as well as the international foreign exchange market, also called Forex (Foreign Exchange Market, editor's note) – the most important financial market in the world that trades in the conversion between currency pairs, such as the euro and the US dollar.

Equipped with laptops and strategies learned from online videos and digital coaching, the representatives speculate on possible international exchange rates and easily pay several hundred euros a month for this. Starting at IM Academy costs newcomers 234.95 US dollars, plus the monthly fees for the "training" offered by the company. However, the fact that the Forex market is one of the most complex markets of all and that even experienced traders find it difficult to predict is skillfully ignored – and concealed – by both the CEOs of the company and the representatives.

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