What is a pyramid scheme, and how it works
pyramid scheme

What is a pyramid scheme, and how it works

 Pyramid Scheme

pyramid scheme

In the vast landscape of financial opportunities, there’s a dark corner that unsuspecting individuals might stumble upon – the infamous pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes have duped countless people, often disguised as legitimate business ventures, leaving them in financial ruin. But what exactly is a pyramid scheme, and how does it work? Let’s delve into the basics, demystifying the intricacies in simple terms.

What is a Pyramid Scheme?

pyramid scheme

At its core, a pyramid scheme is an investment where each person involved recruits others into the program, typically promising high returns for minimal effort. The structure resembles a pyramid, with a single person or entity at the top, recruiting others who, in turn, recruit more individuals, forming multiple levels below. Each level recruits the next, creating a hierarchical structure that widens as new members join.

Key Takeaways

  • A pyramid scheme is like a plan where you recruit members and promise them big profits if they bring in new people and get them to pay a joining fee.
  • In a pyramid scheme, the members are pressured to recruit new people rather than sell products or services. The members are rewarded based on hiring ability.
  • During a recession, people tend to keep hold of their money; pyramid recruitment stops. Alternatively, people could start having suspicions about the scheme slowing down recruitment.


How Pyramid Schemes Work

pyramid scheme

The creators persuade people to join their plan. These folks bring in more people, and each newcomer must pay a joining fee. This fee goes to those at the very top. This sets the stage for the new members to go out and bring in even more people, creating a structure that looks like a pyramid.

Whenever a member recruits others, they earn a commission. The scheme can go two ways: either each person gets a bit of their invested money back, or the whole thing falls apart, and everyone loses out. Sometimes, the money is used to buy products, and new members are appointed to sell these products, getting a profit cut. Money is also used to help members by giving out loans, buying properties, and renting them out.

The Setup:

The Top-tier Promoter

The originator or the top-tier promoter is at the peak of the pyramid. This individual drives the scheme, luring people in with promises of lucrative investment returns.

Recruitment Levels

As the scheme unfolds, the top-tier promoter recruits a handful of participants, forming the second tier. These recruits are then encouraged to bring in more members, beginning subsequent levels. The process repeats, creating a cascading effect.

Investment Requirements

To participate, individuals are often required to make an initial investment. This could be a membership fee, product purchase, or other financial commitment. The allure of easy money entices people to join, believing they are making a wise investment.

Types of Pyramid Schemes:

In the world of finance, there’s a hidden danger lurking in the shadows – pyramid schemes. These deceptive money-making schemes come in various forms, each with tactics to lure unsuspecting individuals. Let’s take a closer look at some typical pyramid schemes in simple terms so you can steer clear of their pitfalls.

Classic Pyramid Scheme


The classic pyramid scheme is the foundation of all pyramid types. It involves a single person or entity at the top who recruits others, forming pyramid levels.

Example: Imagine X recruits Y, who recruits Z, and the chain continues. A makes money from Y and Z’s investments while they, in turn, recruit more people. The pyramid grows, but only those at the top reap the rewards.

Matrix Schemes

In a matrix scheme, participants are organized into a matrix or grid. Each person has a limited number of spots to fill, often restricting the width and depth of the pyramid.

Example: If X recruits three people, those three become the first level under X. Each recruits three more, forming the second level, and so on. The matrix fills up quickly, leaving those at the bottom with no one to recruit.

Gifting Circles

Gifting circles masquerade as charitable groups where participants are encouraged to make a “gift” to someone in the circle. In return, they are promised multiple gifts from others when they recruit new members.

Example: X gifts $1,00 to join a circle. She must recruit two people, each giving $1,00 to receive her gifts. As the process expands, participants are promised gifts, but only those at the top receive anything.

Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)

pyramid scheme

While not all MLMs are pyramid schemes, some operate on a similar structure. Participants earn money not only through their sales but also by recruiting others into the business.

Example: Company X sells health supplements. Y, a distributor, earns a commission on his sales. However, he can also recruit others to sell the products, making a percentage of their sales. If the primary focus is recruitment over product sales, it could be a pyramid scheme.

Ponzi Schemes

Named after Charles Ponzi, these schemes involve paying returns to earlier investors with the capital from newer investors, creating the illusion of profitability.

Example: X promises high returns on investments and uses funds from new investors to pay off existing ones. The scheme collapses when there are not enough new investors to cover the returns promised to earlier participants.

Pyramid schemes come in various shapes and sizes, but they all share a common thread – the promise of easy money through recruitment. Recognizing the red flags and understanding the different types of schemes can help you avoid falling into the trap. Remember, genuine opportunities are built on solid products or services rather than an ever-growing pyramid of recruits. Stay informed, be cautious, and protect yourself from the deceptive allure of these financial mazes.

Top 10 Famous Pyramid Schemes:

  1.  Mary Kay Consulting
  2. Business in Motion
  3. United Sciences of America
  4. BurnLounge, Inc.
  5. USANA Health Sciences
  6. Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing
  7. Vemma
  8. Nu Skin Enterprises
  9. Herbalife
  10. Amway

Why Bitcoin is a pyramid scheme?

 Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency operating on a peer-to-peer network, allowing direct transactions without an intermediary like a bank. Introduced in 2009 by an unknown person or group using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin relies on blockchain technology to maintain a transparent and tamper-resistant ledger of all transactions. The total supply of Bitcoin is capped at 21 million coins, making it a deflationary asset.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin work the same way as Ponzi schemes, according to critics like Roubini and Quinn, with new investors paying out early investors because no actual cash flows are being produced.

Forever Living company work in Pakistan(ALMUFLIHOON)

Forever Living Products is a multinational company in Pakistan and many other countries. Established in 1978, Forever Living specializes in producing and distributing various wellness and personal care products, focusing significantly on aloe Vera-based items. In Pakistan, Forever Living has established a presence through a network marketing model, where independent distributors promote and sell the company’s products.

 The business model involves individuals becoming independent distributors for Forever Living, allowing them to earn commissions based on their sales and the sales of their recruited team.

The success of distributors can vary, and caution should be exercised to distinguish legitimate opportunities from potential pyramid schemes.

The Mechanism behind the Pyramid:

pyramid scheme

The Promise of High Returns

Pyramid schemes thrive on the promise of high returns with minimal effort. The top-tier promoter paints a picture of financial success, convincing participants that their investments will multiply rapidly.

No Real Product or Service

Unlike legitimate businesses, pyramid schemes often lack a genuine product or service. Instead, the focus is on recruiting more members, and any products involved are merely a smokescreen to disguise the scheme’s true nature.

Unsustainable Structure

The pyramid structure is inherently unsustainable. As more levels are added, the recruitment pool becomes exhausted, leaving those at the bottom with little to no chance of recouping their investments and making a profit.

The Downfall:

Saturation Point

The pyramid scheme reaches a saturation point with insufficient recruits to sustain the upper levels. At this stage, those at the bottom have no new members to recruit, and the entire structure crumbles.

Financial Losses

Participants at the lower levels often experience financial losses, having invested money without the promised returns. The majority of individuals involved in the scheme end up losing their investments, while only a few at the top benefit.

Legal Consequences

Pyramid schemes are illegal in most countries, and participants, even unwitting ones, may face legal consequences. Law enforcement agencies actively pursue those behind these schemes, aiming to dismantle them and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Protecting Yourself:

How to Recognize Pyramid Schemes

One of the best ways to avoid falling into the trap of some of these famous pyramid schemes is to recognize the key attributes. For instance, it is probably a pyramid scheme if you have to buy inventory or receive better benefits for recruiting new members or distributors than selling actual products.

Research Thoroughly

Before joining any investment opportunity, conduct thorough research. Legitimate businesses have transparent operations that focus on their products or services.

Beware of Unrealistic Promises

If an investment opportunity promises unrealistically high returns with little risk, it’s likely too good to be true. Exercise caution and skepticism when faced with such propositions.

Check for Legitimacy

Legitimate businesses have a track record, and their operations are verifiable. Check for reviews, testimonials, and red flags indicating a pyramid scheme.

Beware of MLMs such as Forever Living Products (FLP), pyramid schemes made to scam you and your loved ones.

A few days ago, I was given a good* opportunity to earn 20-30k a month with 2-3hrs daily WFH. It was from a company called Forever Living Product. Do not ever fall for their shit; they’ll promise you a lot of things, such as being your boss and starting your own business (with a “Small” Investment). My “Onboarding” Started with three 1-1.5hr discussions with looking kids all in their early 20s using their influence to get money from a pyramid scheme and, in turn, getting more and more people enrolled in their business model which is basically as follows: to work there you have to pay the company anywhere between 1 LAC (what I was offered) to 1 LAC 50K and in return they’ll send you their shitty ass products which won’t even be worth a quarter of what you’re paying. After that, you work for them as “HR,” onboarding more and more people to fund their pyramid. Stay away from FLP and these MLM (Multi-Level Marketing). Any company that asks for a significant amount of money before employment is most likely a pyramid scheme; they will shit-talk corporate employees, preach just how much they make from their job, and try to brainwash you by showing office trips, cars, and other cash flex to influence young kids to invest.

I don’t want anyone to show them hate, but beware and don’t make the mistake of falling into their scam like many others.


Understanding the difficulty of a pyramid scheme is crucial for safeguarding your financial well-being. The promise of easy money can be enticing but often leads down a treacherous path. By being vigilant, researching thoroughly, and staying informed, you can protect yourself and others from falling prey to the deceptive allure of pyramid schemes. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you want to make money online, avoid getting caught in pyramid traps. These schemes promise big profits but usually end up causing financial problems. Instead, look for legitimate ways to earn money online. Good options include freelancing, selling things online, or joining real affiliate programs. Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr let you use your skills to make money, and trustworthy affiliate programs offer fair opportunities. Avoid the temptation of pyramid schemes and focus on genuine ways to earn money online.




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