Letters: The circle is a pyramid

Greed. Desperation. Trust. That is a dangerous combination.

Dear Editor,

Greed. Desperation. Trust. That is a dangerous combination.

When it comes to a pyramid scheme, like the Women’s Gifting Circle, or as it was called several years ago, Women Helping Women, the greedy prey on the desperate and trusting to bilk them out of thousands of dollars.

You trust your friends, right? You trust that they would not involve you in anything harmful or illegal.

And that is how they draw you in. These days a lot of us are strapped for cash, and the idea that a group of like-minded “empowered” women could band together and turn $5,000 into $40,000 is the answer to a lot of problems. We are going to help each other, right? Wrong.

It does not work, because it is a scam. It is illegal.

When I was a reporter at The Valley Echo in the early 2000s, Women Helping Women came along, and the day before my news report and column regarding it came out, a friend of mine invited me to a women only party. She outlined the idea, showing me the “tree of giving” with names laid out in a classic pyramid fashion. She was not unintelligent. She was not bad.

But she did need money. Her name was low on the list. She had handed over her money: it was gone. She could not get it back, despite what she had been told.

I was horrified. I recognized some of the women on the list. After the story came out, I lost that friend, and a few more that blamed me for them losing their money. It was gone the moment they handed it over.

After that, several women came to my office, often in tears, telling their story, anonymously, about how they, and in some cases, their family members, had lost money. One local family, low on that particular tree, invested to the tune of $40,000. They were devastated.

The perpetrators of this will tell you anything they think you want to hear. There are RCMP wives involved, they will say. You can pull out any time, they will say. It is totally legal, they will say. They are lying.

And that is the real horror of this scam. It is touted as women empowering one another. What it really comes down to is greedy, unscrupulous women preying on other women, often in serious financial straights, harming them, and causing untold grief.

It is easy, when you are desperate, to quiet the voices in your head that are screaming something is wrong.

Listen to those voices.

Stephanie Stevens

Radium Hot Springs

Editor’s note: Ms. Stevens reported for the Valley Echo from 1999 to 2005.