Financial Pyramid: Expert points out how to identify fraud

We spoke to an expert on how to tell if a company is committing economic crime

The economic traces left by the pandemic and the high unemployment rates make opportunists practice the old pyramid schemes in a ''disguised'' way, in which some people make money at the expense of others.

Financial pyramids are fraudulent business financial systems that profit from recruiting new participants, without actually marketing any product or service. It is a prohibited practice in Brazil and considered a crime against the popular economy, since it aims at illegal gains. To attract customers and hide fraud, shell companies and products that are not actually marketed and do not have market conditions are generally used.

Care must be taken not to fall into one of these schemes. Criminals have invested in camouflaging financial pyramids through social networks and content that make many people believe it is a credible business. One of the main signs that a particular business may be a financial pyramid is the promise of easy earnings and high profits. Another situation that deserves attention is when the company announces extra earnings by referring new customers or salespeople. It must be clear which product is being negotiated. And one more warning sign! If the company is unknown and it is not easy to find information about it and its owners on Google, beware! It is possible that the CNPJ is only being used to disguise the fraudulent scheme and it happens a lot. Pay attention to the signs. Often, victims only realize they are involved in a fraud when the pyramid fails to attract new customers and, therefore, becomes unsustainable, bringing the scam to light. This is because, without the input of more resources, there is no way to remunerate those who are already within the scheme. Thus, the system collapses, resulting in losses for thousands of people. To avoid falling into this trap, always research the business before investing and don't be fooled by promises of exorbitant earnings, far above the average profitability ratios practiced in the financial market.

According to attorney Dr. Robert Beserra, the investment market has become a disguise for some scammers to make new victims with the scheme: ''Today the most common form of these pyramids is their presentation through supposed investments in stocks on the stock exchange and also investments in cryptocurrencies. With an air of refinement and of being a specialized company in the field, people with good persuasive skills, and a graphic that demonstrates how investors can raise their finances, they are the perfect combination to attract victims of pyramid scams. People who believe there is no other way to multiply their finances, devastated by unemployment and the desire to multiply their assets, end up falling into this type of situation", said the expert.

One way to protect yourself is to check the status of the company's registration with the competent bodies: ''In Brazil, only brokerage houses are authorized to mediate the trading of assets, so investors should pay attention and verify that the financial institution is registered with the Commission de Valores Mobiliários – CVM, in addition to checking whether the brokerage firm is reliable through BM&FBOVESPA and the Central Bank'' pointed out the lawyer, who also warns about how people are invited to criminal schemes: ''Many people are entering pyramids through indications from friends and colleagues who are already within the scheme and who are getting results and therefore entrust their investments to these groups. A minority enters the financial pyramid, knowing that it is a pyramid, risking their capital, as there are reports that they are paying regularly. However, the collapse is inevitable and many will suffer losses''.

But if you have already been a victim of this scam or suspect you are participating in a pyramid system, there are some legal measures that can be taken: '' After falling into a scam like this, it is possible to recover the amounts invested through compensation actions. Today, the Courts of Justice are very attentive to these types of scams and depending on the facts and evidence presented, it is possible that the Judge grants the request for Urgent Precautionary Guardianship, so that there is a blockade of assets of those responsible for the pyramid, preventing the patrimony is dilapidated or hidden, guaranteeing a useful result for this process'' concluded Dr. Robert Beserra.

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