CALL them pyramid, ponzi or get-rich-quick schemes and people might shy away. But call them money games, then they are just games, right? What could be so diabolical about that?
Penang lang (people) are very much into money games. That is what Ben, a Penangite who now lives in Australia, found out when he was here for a holiday three weeks ago.
Ben’s friends and relatives tried to rope him into money games. They had invested in a few.
He was bowled over by their obsession. It does seem that money games are on the minds of many Penangites now.
I hear about them at the coffeeshops and watering holes. And yes, many of my buddies are into them too.
You will likely be the odd one out if you are not into such schemes these days.
JJPTR is a household acronym after almost two years in the market.
It stands for JJ Poor-to-Rich and the very name resonated well with middle-class families.
Its 20% monthly payouts were always on time until the recent hacking job.
Then came Richway Global Venture, Change Your Life (CYL) and BTC I-system, and they are said to be in troubled waters these days. Attempts by many journalists to contact them have been unsuccessful.
The money game list is quite long and Penang has the dubious honour of being the home base for many.
Another friend Robert had a jolt when a doctor he knew told patients to put their money into such a scheme.
From the cleaners at his office to the hawkers and professionals Robert met, everyone was convinced. None questioned how the high returns could come to fruition in so little time.
But Robert is a harsh critic of these games and would not go near them. He did not believe in their economic principles.
He even got into a big fight with his father, who put money into JJPTR.
Now, Robert is proven right. But his father is one of the lucky ones because he recouped his principal and got thousands more over the past few months.
Billy, a man well-versed in such operations, said operators would always use forex trading or investment in foreign projects as stories to woo new members.
They paint vivid pictures that those who join will be part of big-time developments in Third World countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.
Once you get closer to them, they will tell you outright it is a money game and you are among the pioneers, sure to make a profit before the scheme bursts.
Things tend to be smooth sailing for the first few months. You see money coming back in and pride yourself in taking the risk.
But soon the saturation point is reached as new members to the pyramid slow to a trickle.
Then you can expect the scheme to collapse.
Billy pointed out that the higher the return on investment, the faster the scheme bursts.
That is because the operator cannot get enough new members to keep the scheme sustainable. At the same time, he has to deal with huge monthly payouts.
Some in Penang may remember the chance to invest in a cafe chain known as Island Red Cafe around 10 years ago.
Then there is the company that sold gold bars and coins. There was also a Swiss cash scheme which took the country by storm.
As long as there is greed, such schemes will always re-emerge. As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted.
And the quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.