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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Polish authorities tighten their grip on scammers

A recent article published 20th December 2017 on Gazeta Prawna let's us know that Polish authorities want to tighten their grip on scammers. As the article puts it: 
"The UOKiK's message is unambiguous: the permission to cheat hundreds of thousands of Poles has ended. Officials warn and want to convict cheaters."
– UOKiK is the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection in Poland.

The decision of UOKiK might have based at least partly, if not largely, on case Recyclix. Recyclix was based in Poland and apparently had also many Polish victims.

What comes to pyramid scams in general, Polish officials apparently have had quite loose attitude towards pyramid scams before.


Gazeta Prawna:  
"Almost all experts say clearly: the reaction of the state authorities is late. But better now than not at all. For although the last two years have been the resurgence of pyramidal structures resembling Amber Gold, the state organs are still operating slowly."

In fact international scams are quite free to operate throughout the Europe, so this is not a problem that only Poland is struggling with. The internet makes it very easy for pyramid scams to spread and operate without respecting any laws. 

For instance, the Finnish NBI was supposed to evaluate the legitimacy of OneCoin by the end of 2016 when the coin was meant to go public. That of course never happened, because the coin never went public. So OneCoin got off the hook just because the NBI didn't attach the hook with a knot to the line. (Later there was a separate criminal investigation launched by the Finnish Police, but it might still take some time to get some information about the case in public.)



UOKiK warns about ongoing scams


The article by Gazeta Prawna mentions two ongoing scams that UOKiK wants to warn consumers about, DasCoin and Lyoness. DasCoin is referred as a cryptocurrency that does not exist. Lyoness on the other hand is described having pyramid scam features. 

OneCoin was not mentioned in the article, but then again UOKiK had already published a warning about OneLife (OneCoin) in September 2017. OneCoin has been crumbling since the late 2016, so the scam growth in Poland probably has been in a stagnant state for quite some time.



The case Recyclix


After UOKiK had investigated Recyclix and found it to be a scam, the president of UOKiK obliged Recyclix to give investors all the money back they had invested.

However, a Polish attorney Dominik Jędrzejko interviewed in the article says:
"It is good that the decision has been issued, but it is rather symbolic. There is no doubt that the company will not refund money to consumers, if it got into financial trouble much earlier."
From what I have studied the aftermath of Recyclix, it seems likely the attorney is sadly right. On the contrary, it seemed that scammers were even trying to milk more money from their victims. This is copied from a Facebook group titled "Recyclix Support":

... 
But since the company is not running, there is no payment source for us for our hard work and for this reason, we charge users with fees before we validate their refund request 
# We can't deduce those fees because all your investments and profit are by the owners of the financial accoutns and for them, deducing any amount from the total refund is considered as an illegal activity 
# We have no guarantee that users who will receive their refund are going to pay us the required fees later. This is why we charge them with fees before we validate their refund request 
# Our activities are legal and everything is explained in the T&Cs that was signed by the juridical courte of Poland 
...  

– By the sound of that I bet it was a Nigerian Prince sorting things out there. 

Recyclix scam preparing relaunch as Replastics?

Recyclix was a scam company who claimed returning sizeable profits from recycling plastic waste. The company was luring people to invest money through "crowd funding", which was actually just a pyramid scheme to rapidly grow the number of investors.

As many of the scams nowadays, Recyclix was a combination of a ponzi and a pyramid scam. The ponzi part of the scam was the mere fact that the company wasn't even doing any plastic recycling. According to Polish media Recyclix didn't even own any recycling plants

Albeit the company had no recycling business going on, it managed to fool a large number of victims all over the world to invest to the ponzi via a pyramid scheme. 

To fool its investors Recyclix went as far as participating recycling related fairs having its booth quite regularly appearing among real recycling companies. In fact this was a genius way to increase the credibility of this scam in a low cost way. 


The scam participating a fair.


Occasionally Recyclix also organised tours to some Polish recycling plants, which of course were presented like they were owned by the company. Videos of those tours were used to convince people about the legitimacy of the scheme. You can still find some on YouTube.


Recyclix organised tours to some scrappy looking Polish recycling plants to show the members that the piles of garbage were real. Here's a link to the actual video.


Replastics?




Recyclix scam collapsed in the early 2017. I'm not going in to details here – you can find plenty of them from this blog though. 

While snooping the crumbled remains of the pyramid, I noticed that the original website of the scam (recyclix.com) has been just recently altered to present a new company with "Replastics" logo on the top left corner. In addition to the URL word Recyclix can still be found on the website as "Recyclix sp. z o.o." is mentioned. This was the original scam company registered in Poland. Nevertheless, there might be no actual connection to the old company anymore as the scam team apparently dissolved.

There seem to be no operational scam going on... yet. However, considering that the very website was used to run the ponzi pyramid scam, I wouldn't trust anything presented there. It might be part of preparation for a relaunch of Recyclix as Replastics. Of course it's also possible to squeeze some more money from the old victims. 


Screenshot taken 11 January 2018 from recyclix.com website.

Friday, 5 January 2018

OneCoin - DealShaker's New Year's Flush!




2017 was supposed to be "the year of merchants" according to OneCoin/OneLife. Instead it has been the year of collapse and decomposition for the ponzi-pyramid with several top scammers leaving the sinking ship.

At the London event in June 2016 Ruja Ignatova presented her goal and vision: "1 million merchants and 10 million members in two years". During the same event comically pompous Ignatova also presented OneCoin's new slogan, "The Bitcoin Killer". Let's see what's the situation now, about one and a half year later.



Remember the vision?



The goal set at the London event June 2016.

At the moment the counters of DealShaker show about 55.000 registered merchants and a bit above 300.000 individuals who have ever logged in to the website. These figures are very small-scale considering that the company itself claims to have well over 3 million members.


This screenshot was taken 4 January 2018.

One can of course argue what's the credibility of a counter set by a notorious scam. Nevertheless, the counter on OneLife's website falls back from 10 million members quite a bit showing 3.3 million members at the moment.


Personally I would presume the scam having hundreds of thousands of members instead of millions. I base my estimation on following web traffic statistics available on Alexa.com and Similarweb.com, OneCoin's popularity on GoogleTrends compared to other search terms and scams. Also the amount of OneCoin's Facebook likes and general member activity online are modest for such a cult like movement of "millions of members". 


This screenshot was taken 4 January 2018.




DealShaker's New Year's Flush





At the very turn of the year almost 4.000 deals expired from DealShaker in an instance. All in all there was about 12.000 deals before that, so this means that about one third of the deals disappeared from the platform. Nope, this wasn't a huge success as a Christmas discount sales, but thousands of shitty deals just expiring. 

The graph below shows the amount of deals available throughout the year 2017 and also the deep fall of the available deals at the turn of the year.


The graph shows that the number of available deals is now about the same as it was in March 2017.

It's also worth noticing that from the registered 55.000 merchants only about 8.000 (15 %) have deals on the platform. The actual number of merchants having deals on the platform is even smaller, because there are a lot of merchants having several active deals. 


What comes to OneCoin's member base, during the first year of DealShaker only about 300.000 members bothered to log in to the website. This is rather strange considering that the company itself claims that there are "millions" of enthusiastic onecoiners out there. Even I myself have logged in to the platform a couple of times to check it out.

The failure of the platform didn't come as a surprise to anyone outside the cult. However, it's still used as a marketing tool for OneCoin despite DealShaker being an awful mess and merely pointing out the actual situation of the scam.



The growth of the DealShaker doesn't go along with the amount of deals


Despite the amount of deals has been fluctuating quite a bit and finally dropping with staggering 4.000, there has been a continuous and linear growth of merchants and logged-in-members throughout the existence of DealShaker.

According to the graphs below one should expect that the number of deals should have rising in a similar way. Instead there has been a very low participance from the merchant side with only a small minority of them actually making deals.


Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.




PS. Thanks to the contributor who helped with this article with the graphs, details and figures about DealShaker and the follow-up of the platform!