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Twisted American Dream: Study shows microloans aid predatory MLMs

(ENTREPRENEUR) If microloans are being given to start new businesses, let’s give to those who are starting their own businesses rather than MLMs.

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MLMs twisting the American Dream with microloans. Image of the American dollar with collage background.

Microloans were touted as a way to help people in poverty to find a way out. Yes, the interest rates were higher, 15% – 18% for some micro-lenders, but not as high as payday loan businesses where loan interests can soar to upwards of 400%.

When you live life on the edge of financial failure, microloans are supposed to offer a helping hand to those starting their own businesses.

Enter today’s flourishing MLM market, where participants are promised if they work hard and follow the plan, they can make their way to the top of MLM glory with its promises of riches, cars, cruise vacations, and more.

Microloan companies classify MLMs as small businesses and offer loans to those who can’t use cash as collateral with their own banks to secure loans. These microloans are used to buy MLM inventory and a dream.

Grameen America is one microloan company that allows MLM inventory purchases as part of their business loan program.

“Grameen America does not advise members about their business choice or refuse loans based on business type as long as borrowers can prove their funds are being used for business purposes and the business is legal,” Grameen America told Vox reporter Kelsey Piper in an interview for a May 18 story.

“It is our experience that our members know how best to put their business loans to use and the type of business they believe will be successful for them. Our data shows many members start off in one kind of business, e.g. direct sales, and then pivot into other types of businesses as they cycle through our program.”

According to a Grameen America study, women who took out these microloans saw a positive but modest increase in monthly net income, a small increase in savings and a Vantage-Score (a type of credit score).

Their study shows that 32.7% of their customers plan on starting or have started their direct sales or MLM investment.

The company does not differentiate the overall income success of entrepreneurs who start their own businesses from those who invest in MLMs so measuring the difference in success there is not possible. However, an AARP Foundation study found that 44% of participants dropped out after less than one year of working with an MLM.

With a loan interest rate of 15% – 18% for a microloan, failure could lead women in poverty to an even worse situation than where they started.

The microloan business is not new, and the results are not hidden. As investigative stories showed in 2016, microloans aren’t lifting women out of poverty.

Encouraging women in poverty to use the loans to buy inventory in an MLM is bad business for everyone. Financial experts and even some MLM companies make it clear going into debt to join an MLM is strongly discouraged. Microloans don’t change financial fundamentals.

The Grameen America study does show positives for the women who serve as their customer base. The study stated, “Overall, the study found it was not just increased income or just the loan that led to the program’s positive effects. The weight of the evidence suggests that women who experience life circumstances similar to those in the Grameen America program are likely to be more financially resilient in the face of unexpected challenges if they are offered more options to combine work and businesses, more ways to strengthen their peer networks, and more liquidity.”

That might be true, but with an over 40% failure rate for those investing in MLMs, the risk might not be worth it.

Mary Beth Lee retired from teaching in Texas this year after 28 years as a student media adviser. She spends her time these days reading, writing, fighting for public education and enjoying the empty nester life in Downtown Fort Worth.

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Business Entrepreneur

Scammers are out to prey on MLM victims and small businesses

(ENTREPRENEUR) MLM pyramid schemes are already predatory enough, but for victims trying to get out of the cycle, scammers are waiting on the sidelines.

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Thieves Young Living MLM Oil

Predatory, scam, rip-off, shady, trap… all of these may be words that rightfully come to mind when I mention pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing campaigns, or “MLM.”

It probably conjures images of annoying messages from the one gullible high school friend you haven’t quite had the heart to unfriend on Facebook. Perhaps you know someone who got put through the wringer themselves. The one thing victims of these predatory marketing schemes have in common is being in the hole of a lot of money. Usually money the victims can’t afford, since these scams prey on the economically vulnerable. Truly, there are few things more universally detestable than MLM pyramid schemes… but I found one.

Did you know there is an entire secondary scammer market to recycle victims of MLMs?

A new spin on the idea of ambulance chasers, there is an entire demographic of scammers out there that trawl social media such as Facebook and Reddit to find recently victimized people looking for a way out of the pyramid-shaped hole they’ve found themselves in, offer services to these victims to “assist” them in recovering lost investments or liquidating their almost valueless inventory, and then ghosting the victims – taking them for their non-existent money a second time. They often pose as legal representation or consumer relief of one flavor or another.

Here is an example posted on the subreddit r/antiMLM:

That website doesn’t exist. That is not a real law firm. The premise is a scam looking to make a sucker twice out of the same victim. One commenter using the user name ‘lemontest’ shared the following account:

After my relative got scammed by a company that promised to help her set up a drop-shipping business, another business magically appeared that promised to get her money back. She gave them money and never heard from them again. I’m sure there’s a lot of money to be made selling contact lists of people who fall for get rich quick schemes.

How incredibly filthy toxic is that? Be vigilant out there, the scammers are creative.

If you (asking for a friend of course) or anyone else you know has fallen victim to any online scam, I recommend this light-hearted, and a little bit cheeky, recovery guide found on the Federal Trade Commission website and authored by Jon M. Taylor, MBA, Ph.D. of the Consumer Awareness Institute.

Any stories to share about MLMs or other comments? I’d love to hear from you.

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Business Entrepreneur

The BEST report to gain perspective on all sides of the media (bye bias!)

(ENTREPRENEUR) We all want to stay informed, but American media has both obvious bias and hidden agendas. Sign up for these reports to see all sides.

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Getting no bias breaking news media.

Especially near elections, politically-charged business decisions, and on highly controversial topics, it’s hard to find non-bias media nowadays. Every news site or TV show seems to have a hidden agenda, but this new report aims to show all sides.

Ground News aims to give readers an opportunity to reduce their own media bias by aggregating news from many different sources in a way to showcase stories across the political spectrum. The Blindspot Report identifies news stories from both sides of the arena, helping readers see how bias is impacting the information they receive. This newsletter can give you a different perspective to understand both sides of the issue.

Is media bias even a thing?

Technology may have revolutionized the way we share information, but it has also exacerbated the divide between different views. Americans seem to be more polarized than ever before. It feels as if there isn’t any common ground for civil discourse. Although most Americans are getting better at identifying fake news, media bias often gives us a slanted perspective on the news. Media bias occurs when journalists or producers allow their own opinions to impact the way they report the news. A study out of UCLA found that media bias is real. When you get all your news from one source, you may not be getting the entire picture.

Sign up for the Blindspot Report

We’re all biased, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum. We want information that supports our morals and ethics. We want someone to confirm what we believe. It’s human nature to want to listen to people who agree with us. Reading alternate sources to get your news isn’t about changing your own point of view. It’s about helping you compare different perspectives to let you think more clearly.

Ground News has three newsletters that help you stay informed. Sign up for the Blindspot Report to see what you’re missing.

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Business Entrepreneur

Small businesses angry at depletion of COVID-19 relief funds without warning

(ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses are in shock when they find out COVID-19 relief funds are no longer available, with an email update from the SBA.

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Small businesses are no longer offered EDIL loans from the SBA.

In May, the Small Business Administration (SBA) sent out an update to borrowers of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) for COVID-19 relief. The EIDL program is now out of funds, according to an email sent to borrowers.

The loan program formally closed back in December 2021, but there was a period when small businesses who had already received funding could request additional money. That period is now officially over, and the $345 billion that was allotted for COVID-19 relief is gone.

The impact of EIDL

Many owners and entrepreneurs are outraged and frustrated with the lack of transparency from the SBA. There was no warning that the funds were almost depleted and many businesses were relying on that loan money to keep their businesses afloat as the economy rebounds. However, SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman praised the program,

“The SBA has delivered historic economic relief to millions of America’s small businesses through the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program…”

According to an SBA press release, over $390 billion in aid was distributed to nearly 4 million businesses.

Small businesses still need help

In May, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), told health ministers that COVID-19 and its effects are not over. Here in the United States, life seems to be getting back to normal, if you discount the horrific inflation and gas prices, which are further impacting the recovery of small businesses.

Congress has been wrangling with legislation (H.R. 3807) that would offer more funding for those that were hit hard due to covid. Getting the House and Senate to agree on this legislation is expected to be difficult. So, no guarantees that more help is coming.

The SBA recommends that businesses who need more resources contact their local SBA office. Virtual appointments can be made for those who wish to avoid contact.

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