1. What first got you interested in wanting to learn more about MLM companies?
My interest in MLM began as the result of my sister's involvement with Shaklee in 2013. Loretta is the loveliest person one could hope for in a sister, but I think the issue was that she naturally trusted people; we were raised by a Baptist minister in Illinois farm country. Our mother worked from home turning our small farm's produce into jams and flavored ciders to sell. So when a "friend" offered her a "business opportunity," she believed everything he claimed was true. The money would be fast, and there would be plenty of it. She was excited to start her own business.
It was a combination of Loretta's excitement over this investment coupled with her lack of any plan set off the alarm bells for me. I began to do Google searches for MLM experts including Jonathan Brand, Bob Fitzpatrick, and others. Mr. Brand was able to speak with me by phone briefly when I asked his advice about Loretta.
And I guess that was the first time I understood how organized fraud is allowed to dupe American consumers. Brand, Fitzpatrick, and Taylor shared the same expert opinion. They arrived at it independently of one another, and each of the top US pyramid scheme experts explained the exact same thing in various levels of detail. They top minds in MLM fraud explained that the members of US oversight committees in congress annually agree not protect US consumers from multilevel marketing fraud, but rather, to accept lobbying, meaning bribe money, from the central pyramid scheme lobby or Direct Selling Association aka the DSA. This is astounding to me still. I built the Shaklee products and MLM reviews sub-domain at pyramidscheme.wiki in order to test a theory that the American rule of law can be restored one day by the FTC or Federal Trade Commission.
2. When and why did you decide to set up your website?
I decided to set up the website after my sister lost the remainder of her college savings chasing the business opportunity. Of course she was chasing something that others could see didn't exist, and she was losing the money my father and mother always worked so hard to earn and put away for her. I was left with this sinking feeling which stemmed from a dark place, from the reality that despite having a physical office in Washington DC and a realistic logo on the letterhead used by its employees, the FTC was not and is not a legitimate consumer protection agency. The laws against pyramid schemes in Section 5 of Federal FTC law already makes Shaklee and Amway and 1000 other MLMs illegal. But known, named politians are taking money from the pyramid scheme lobby/DSA in return for allowing criminals to scam people like my sister out of their entire savings. She lost more than $10,000 since they brainwash victims to buy.
3. How can consumers tell the difference between real and fake reviews of MLM companies?
That's an easy one--thank you for that. If a review of an MLM company contains widget links or any links to MLM tools systems or ways to build your MLM downline, it is a scam. Leave the site, and try again to find a real MLM review. I have learned that all MLM companies want to manipulate Google into showing fakes high in the list for these specific searches:
"[MLM name] + products"
"[MLM name] + reviews"
"[MLM name] + complaints"
"[MLM name] + scam"
In other words, I had to make a website that came up high on the first page of results for the searches, "Shaklee products," "Shaklee reviews," "Shaklee complaints," and so on. So I did this, and now the site is getting tons of traffic. I have never seen one of my sites get so many visitors each day. I'm spreading the truth for free, and I'm doing it in memory of Loretta because I loved her very much. I always will in some ways--you know how family is. It's for life and her memory is with me wherever I go.
If an MLM review site suggests that more than 1% of the scheme's participants will earn back their initial investment or buy-in cost, it is a fake reviews site, so move on to the next. This is because Brand and Taylor have shown that more than 99% of MLM participants fail to make their investment back, and this statistic appears to be true of the MLM industry as a whole.
4. What can people do when searching on Google and elsewhere to find unbiased information, rather than information put out by the companies themselves?
This is a great question, although a slightly harder one to answer. It has an answer, though. If you suspect that information you're viewing online is biased, follow the links on the page to see if they try to sell you anything that would tend to compromise the author's credibility. If you see any site claiming that a company is not a scam, it is a fake. If you see any site that encourages you to join an MLM rather than run from all multilevel marketing, it is fake. This is rather simple to determine because all MLM companies are illegal pyramid scams. I have not seen one exception to that rule. Any site claiming the opposite is fake.
5. For someone who is looking to start a business (or join an established business as an independent consultant, etc), what would you suggest they do when it comes to researching business opportunities?
The first thing is to understand that the entire fraud industry is competing to come up high in Google for the search "business opportunity," so you have a breed or variety of scam that tries to imitate something very specific, "business opportunity." You will not have good luck searching Google for terms such as "income from home," "residual income," "home income," "be your own boss," and so on, because the SEO for these terms is rigged by about 1000 MLMs, all of which are fraudulent chain recruiting schemes.
So I suppose the best answer I have on how to tell the difference between a legitimate business opportunity and a fake is to keep in mind that:
1.All MLM "home business opportunities" are fakes. If it looks good and you find out it has anything to do with MLM, run away and warn your friends. It's a fake, just another MLM scam.
2. Look at the compensation plan. If it requires you to buy any products to qualify for commissions, it's a scam.
3. If the compensation plan requires that you use a different system of measurement for money, it's an MLM scam, run. For example, if you have to convert US dollars to "PV" or "Personal Volume Points," watch out: it's a scam. This is done so that participants get the illusion that they are spending "points." It works because the simple act of figuring out what you've spent vs. the commissions you've earned now requires decimal conversions between real currency and make believe company points. That makes it harder to realize that you're spending 80-$100 for every $15 you earn back in commissions--get it?
4. Look for unfamiliar pairing of nouns where each is capitalized. Jonathan Brand refers to this as proprietary (made up) language. If your compensation plan introduces a bunch of new capitalized nouns that have different, special meanings in the context of the comp plan, you have a scam. Examples include, "Team Bonus," "Diamond Leader," "Upline," "Downline," "Business Leader Pricing," "PV," "Point Value," or anything similarly made-up and ridiculous sounding, it is a scam. I hope this helps readers to make good choices down the road.