Internet Pyramid Scheme Sweeping State - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 08/04/05

Internet Pyramid Scheme Sweeping State

By Mari Payton

Could your co-workers or church members be involved in a carefully devised scam? The Attorney General's office says 'yes.'

Several Jackson area companies and churches have become targets. The AG's office said about 22,000 churches nationwide are involved in this on-line scam, and it's happening here.

Several Jackson church members, and employees at Nissan, Baptist Hospital, and University Medical Center have been targets.

The scam is an illegal "gifting" program known as "Elite Activity."

Basically its a pyramid scheme. People are solicited to invite others to invest a $100 to get into the gifting program. People are then promised a payoff of up to $48,000.

The scheme spreads when individuals invite friends, co-workers, and church members to enroll.

Pyramid schemes are illegal in Mississippi. If you participate, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor. You can spend up to six months in jail or you'll pay a $500 fine.

"There are several states suing them in court," said Grant Hedgepeth, who works in the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. "They've filed civil action. The founder has had criminal charges against him in Houston, Texas. People need to know this is illegal and Attorney General's across the county are taking this very seriously."

The AG's office told WLBT that one state estimates that 2 million of their residents are involved.

With a $15 a month membership fee per person, the scam's founders are making $30 million every month... in just one state.

The AG's office said if someone comes up to you and talks about a get rich program, that is a definite warning sign. They said go by the old saying "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

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