Why get-rich-quick schemes keep fooling us

Desire for overnight success is the reason conmen thrive in our societies

In Summary

• LWE has scammed Kenyans just as BLQ was swindling Ugandans

Football fans place bets online
Football fans place bets online

If I am being fair, the desire to get rich quickly is a weakness in most humans, not just victims of fraud. Since the usual route towards success is a long and difficult one, most people are tempted by get-rich-quick schemes that give them a tangible daily return.

Get-rich-quick schemes are often Ponzi schemes or pyramid schemes. Although not that much different, these two types of schemes are used interchangeably in contemporary times.

Since most fraudulent organisations have moved to e-platforms, the lines are blurred. A Ponzi scheme lures investors with the promise of earning high profits from legitimate business activities, while a pyramid scheme offers an investor the choice of making more money by recruiting new investors to the scheme. However, fundamentally both schemes lure ‘investors’ on promises of high returns on their original capital.

Most betting sites are essentially pyramid schemes, offering high returns to investors and an extra source of income through referrals. Those who claim to have made money in these schemes are among the first people to invest and earn high returns from the money newer investors put into the scheme.

Essentially, when you meet a person who swears by a certain scheme and proves to you how they made their money, understand that they made that money from gullible people such as yourselves. The question remains, how many people must you fool to make a return on your investment?

The quizzing part about the success of pyramid and Ponzi schemes is that everyone is aware that these schemes are fraudulent, yet they still jump at the opportunity with eyes wide open at the prospect of making some quick money. This is why perhaps betting sites have been increasingly more popular in East Africa.

Established betting sports sites have made a name for themselves in the Kenyan market. New sites, on the other hand, come in like a flash flood. They come in big, making huge promises, luring in more clients with guaranteed success stories from their initial investors, then bam! Just like that, they vanish into nothingness.

Such was the case of LWE Football this month. I followed the LWE Football discussion all through social media platforms this past weekend as ‘investors’ lamented about how they were conned out of thousands of shillings, if not millions. The betting platform that had them see guaranteed returns even if the bet was wrong had simply vanished into thin air by October 25. Curiously, I logged into the site and was immediately confronted by a warning sign about scams and fraudsters using LWE Football’s name.

However, thousands of subscribers were left penniless after their accounts were frozen and they had no access to their money. The agents of the sites and communication persons had also vanished overnight. A TikTok user by the name of Llewellyn Ouya had been warning people on his social media about the LWE Football platform being a scam as early as the beginning of October. Ironically, most of the comments under the video were from subscribers of the LWE Football platform, who simply did not care about the longevity of the scam as long as they were making returns on their money currently. Yet as soon as the scammers disappeared with millions of Kenya shillings, the laments started.

As it turns out, Kenya’s brothers and sisters in neighbouring Uganda were simultaneously going through a similar scam under the name BLQ. Ugandan newspaper The Monitor reported that BLQ swindled Ugandans out of 60 billion Uganda shillings (about KSh1.9 billion) before shutting down operations. The icing on the cake? The Twitter page of BLQ simply tweeted the words “I’m out” with a peace emoji before vanishing with people’s hard-earned money. 

BLQ and LWE are not the first nor the last swindles of their kind. Yet they keep coming, growing and scamming. As long as people desire to get rich overnight without working hard for their money, there will always be scammers out there waiting to target such vulnerable people.

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