In Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, you can earn Rs 10,000 a month working just twice a week from home. The catch is, to become a multi-level marketing “leader”, you first have to pay prospective employers Rs 1,500. Also, friends and family must enrol into the scheme, each paying Rs 1,500 “fees”. Chances are, within weeks, this employer will disappear with the money. For such is the modus operandi of a typical multi-level marketing, ponzi or pyramid scheme. Such schemes flourish across India (a Rs 1.5 lakh crore worth fraud, by 2011 estimates) but are especially popular in southern states, including Andhra Pradesh.
“These schemes have caused much hardship among the poor, unemployed and gullible, even deaths, in Andhra. Investigations show hundreds of crores lost to such schemes where promoters disappear,” says DIG V.C. Sajjanar, former head of the economic offences wing of the state police. Sajjanar was instrumental in carrying out raids against Japan Life India, a pyramid scheme that looted Rs 4,000 crore.