The image shines and “it throws” : Lamborghini, luxurious apartment in Dubai, Rolex in diamonds and trips to heavenly countries… On social networks, some young people seem to lead the good life. Their biography on Instagram highlights a dazzling success: “From school failure to choice of salary, from the empty fridge to the big cars”boasts for example Adnane, one of these “wonders” online trading.
There are dozens of success stories of this type on social networks. Young people, often still students, line up “five-figure monthly income”. Income, they say, from trading. These young people would have learned to play on the stock market. The Forex market and cryptocurrencies, as long as we are trained in it, would make it possible to reap the benefits, in “making money with his money”.
At first glance, their profiles seem solid: they exist and really lead the way. Some even afford the luxury of benefiting from glowing articles on sites like Forbes. You have to look closely to realize that these are infomercials written by young people “traders” themselves. The latter do not hesitate to win a Vuitton wallet, an iPhone or sums in bitcoin for their followers, those who follow them and share their publications on social networks.
Adnade went even further, offering a week’s trip to Dubai to ten of its subscribers. An all-expenses-paid trip to a five-star hotel, jet-ski, desert outing, and yacht. An opportunity to provide them with trading training at the same time, in order to “share the skills he has acquired and duplicate as many of his skills as possible”. In a story taken from an Instagram account, we see the promotion of an online conference.
All these young people offer to join companies with already promising names: Attitude Legacy, Learn do Succeed, IM Academy, Be, Pro Network vision, but also Embi, Melius or Kuvera… The promise: in exchange for the purchase of a training pack, which fluctuates between 100 and 300 euros per month, members can train in trading and learn how to make money on the currency or cryptocurrency market. A market yet renowned for its volatility, therefore dangerous for neophytes.
But it doesn’t matter here: young recruits don’t really learn to “trade”. At most, they learn the vocabulary of trading. In reality, they are sent alerts to their phones, with positions to take on the markets, they are promised, to make money without having to keep their nose glued to the screen.
The entrance fee for these courses is expensive, “but much less than a trading school at 15,000 euros a year”, justify the recruiters. And since the target of these programs is aimed at young people aged 18 to 25, who are often not very wealthy, they offer them the opportunity to sell a training pack to their friends or family members. If they sell it to three people, their own subscription becomes free. By recruiting more members, they can get monthly income and build their own team, with enticing goals.
This is where the trap closes in on them: for “succeed in business”, you don’t have to count your hours. Chain calls, canvassing, to recruit knowledge and sell, again and again, the training pack. Defeatist attitudes are banned: “Do you prefer hard labor for five years or prison for 40 years?”calls out one of the young people on the internet, explaining that it is better to work hard for a few years to build a solid network and reach the enviable position of chairman, rather than toil a lifetime in a low-paid position.
Paul Peskens, a business school student, succumbed to the sirens of Pro Network Vision at the start of 2020. The scholarship quickly took a back seat in favor of recruiting new members. “I was told to work on myself, I was asked to learn the presentation by heart. Every weekend with my mentor, we would meet in a café and he would say to me: ‘Make me your presentation’. It was a bit like the wolf of wall streeta movie they love, when Leonardo DiCaprio says, ‘Sell me that pen’.”
To speed up recruitment, these groups organize “Airbnb weekends”. The principle consists of renting a prestigious apartment and holding one-hour conferences, from morning to evening, to recruit as many young people as possible in record time. In October, but also in full confinement, these sessions continued. Several videos of young people crammed into small rooms, without masks, have circulated on social networks.
Quickly, Paul realizes that he cuts himself off from his friends, his family and even his girlfriend. “I received a message every two to three minutes during the day. I am 21 years old, I did nothing with my life, I stayed locked in my room contacting people all day long to do mass recruitment. It was not possible.”
Because entering the business, it is also to adopt its cause, its vocabulary and an adequate behavior. To show oneself “coachable”which Paul translates as “manipulable”but also “adopt the right mindset”, in other words, the right state of mind. Videos and videoconferences are scheduled every week to instil the values of the network in its members. To explain to them that they are part of the new generation, the one who has understood everything, who is about to succeed with brilliance. And if parents or friends doubt their future success, they will have to be removed. Bad vibes are not welcome…
Moussa, who was a member of Attitude Legacy a few weeks ago, managed to recruit 30 friends in record time. He was one of the promising young people in the network. “But with 30 people, or 9,000 euros per month that I was earning at Attitude Legacy, I only received 300 euros per month. There was always something to justify not paying me at the right level”, explains the young man. Disgusted, he decides to leave the network: “I had no life at all. I was alone for a while.”
I lost all my friends, I moved away from my family, it was very hard.Moussa, former member of Attitude Legacy
Paul felt the same void: “They make you feel like you have friends, a second family.” Excluded from the networks when leaving the group, “I found myself alone in front of everyone”, he says. In addition to the moral shock, Paul estimates his losses at 1,500 euros, an amount for this student already in debt to pay for his business school.
This pyramid scheme has a name: it is the “snowball sale”. According to Rémy Slove, director of cabinet at the DGCCRF, the general direction of competition, consumption and the repression of fraud, several investigations are in progress. “These are sales repressed by the consumer code, because certain practices are prohibitedhe deciphers. For example, it is forbidden to recruit an affiliate if his recruitment is subject to an entry price or the purchase of trading training.
If the amount that has been paid to return gives rise to benefits or amounts paid to other members, this is a prohibited practice.Rémy Slove, from the DGCCRF
Difficulty for the DGCCRF: new groups often appear without having any legal existence on French territory. Among the names mentioned above, only two companies are declared in the commercial register. The others, like ghosts, continue their activity outside of any framework. To the point that the members of these networks collect their money on the Skrill online payment platform, similar to PayPal. Neither slip, nor invoice, nor payslip… even though the most senior members post commissions of 25,000 euros per month.
Moussa remembers the speech that accompanied these payments on Skrill: “We were told not to send too much money to our bank account at once, to leave it on Skrill instead, since it was not necessarily declared.” Among the chairmen, at the top of the pyramid, crypto payment cards are used, to make the money untraceable. And when a member wonders about the legality of these transactions, he is advised to open a company… in Dubai.
Finally, and this is certainly the most worrying point, for Miviludes, the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses, the young people who join these networks are at a pivotal age: 18 to 25 years old, even 16 years old. for some, which we were able to confirm by collecting several testimonies. “It’s a moment of passage into adulthood which is extremely important. They are encouraged to break away from their studies, to break away from their activities, whether they are learning or professional activities, to devote themselves fully trading and relationship marketing, with the hope of earning millions in record time”analyzes Anne-Marie Courage, advisor to Miviludes.
Experience shows, however, that only a very small proportion of the members of these networks manage to hold their own. The lifestyle of the few who succeed is in reality financed by those who recruit with all their might, pyramid. An unknown reality that does not deter new recruits. A year ago, 4,600 young people gathered at the Palais des sports in Paris for a large meeting of one of these groups. Lockdown seems to have reinforced this trend. During a videoconference on Sunday November 15, 2020, there were still 3,000 of them listening to the leaders of one of these groups, promising them a better life if they joined them.