Special Report: Online Pyramid Schemes
A scam even older than the internet promises big money but never delivers.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The promise of fast cash with no work. Pay just $90 or more to sign up and for every new member you bring to the site, you get $12 plus a cut of every member they bring with no actual product to sell.
"If it's just people and their money involved, that's classic pyramid scheme and that's why it's against the law," says Tom Bartholomy of the Charlotte Better Business Bureau.
Bartholomy says a few people may receive money for a referral but most like many message board posters we found never get a dime from the site. "A lot of 'em we see are based in Eastern Europe and are connected to organized crime. Well, you're going to take them on to get your money back or to get paid on the referrals, good luck with that."
The fact that it's the wild, wild web makes it difficult, if not impossible to bust the people behind sites like PayMyName.com. A little legwork on our end and I found the company that makes it possible for you to see these sites is right here in the Q.C.
Charlotte-based Snoork Hosting provides the computers and hardware where website live. I asked if they knew they were hosting sites accused of ripping people off and got this answer from Filip Nowak of Snoork Hosting:
"The Website PayMyName.com and SafeMula.com you mentioned seem to be illegal pyramid schemes...If a pyramid scheme site is found on our network, we take immediate action."
They did, Snoork dumped the sites.
It's the wild, wild web remember? In less than 24 hours both sites were back online with a different host. So I went to the next level: Tucows Domains, the company that registered the sites with the international group that regulates the web. Tucows Domains has not responded to our requests for an interview or a statement.
I also asked the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center if they were aware of PayMyName.com and SafeMula.com. A spokesperson says they couldn't tell us if they were investigating the sites.
Bartholomy warns that there is no such thing as easy money on the internet and if it sounds too good to be true, it is.