ACN Scam?
August 6, 2004 6:45 PM   Subscribe

My mother has gotten herself involved in this ACN thing, whose 'opportunity' page just stinks of pyramid scheme. (Her current significant other has history with another so-called 'internet business'.) I suppose I don't have a huge problem with this alone, but the pyramid effect has set in, and I'm now receiving calls applying not-so-subtle pressure to join in, help out, save on my bills, make money, the works. On top of this, she's also asking for contact info for friends, an obvious attempt at generating leads. So, two questions - first, I'm certain this ACN thing is a scam, and would like to show my mother this, but am having trouble finding concrete proof online... testimonials, news pieces, et cetera. Can someone assist me with this? And second, how do I tell my mother, in a respectful way, to lay off the frigging marketing already?
posted by danwalker to Work & Money (10 answers total)
This ought to do it. Also google "ACN attorney general", pretty much all you need.
posted by jmgorman at 7:01 PM on August 6, 2004

In some states those are illegal. Dunno if they can (or choose to) go after the small-time participants or just the general corporation. If it's outlawed in your state, that should be ammunition enough to get her to stop (I'd think...).
posted by herc at 7:22 PM on August 6, 2004

I'd say "that's a pyramid scheme, and you're a freakin' idiot". Yes, I would say that to my own mother. Respect is not the way here.
posted by reklaw at 7:23 PM on August 6, 2004

Naw, reklaw, respect is needed, because in these schemes, the mental payload of the virus includes defense against naysayers. They tell their suckers what they can expect to hear from normal people who might tell them that they are freakin' idiots, why those normal people are wrong, and that no matter what they hear, it's not a pyramid scheme.

If the infection has advanced to the point where showing her jmgorman's links doesn't do it, dan, you could try simply telling her that you don't participate in pyramid schemes, and put the burden of proof on her to prove that it isn't one... but she has to prove it. She can't force you to sit through the next sucker up's pitch.

One thing that might help her get out of it is to encourage her to set a very conservative goal of how much money she plans to make over the next 6 months or year, and get her to agree to drop it if she hasn't made that. Not as a motivation tool or anything, but as a way for her to see that as the scheme has sucked her in she has continually revised her hopes downward to tolerate the fact that she's being ripped off. Of course, if she knows lots of credulous morons, that plan could backfire.

I had a naive young employee once who got sucked into that-internet-business-that-they-swear-is-not-amway-other-than-the-fact-that-it's-owned-by-the-same-people-and-uses-all-the-same-gimmicks-but-its-web-based-so-that-means-its-not-amway. It was truly terrifying to see this otherwise rational, smart, promising kid get irrevocably sucked dry and converted to an infectious disciple. It was like they gave him one of those earworms from Wrath of Khan.

Anyway, when I fired him after extensive performance problems, he wasn't bothered by it, because he'd be 'retiring in six months' anyway. Poor schmoe. I bet he's got lots of motivational tapes and binders by now, though.

posted by ulotrichous at 10:03 PM on August 6, 2004

I would take a page out of the Bush Bible, and just repeat a single phrase as many times as it takes to penetrate. That phrase is "pyramid scheme." The second half of reklaw's suggestion really is not required. Obviously, reklaw doesn't have a mother (kinda explains a lot, dunnit?).
posted by scarabic at 11:50 PM on August 6, 2004

Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Schemes. It's a fine line, but we're talking MLM here (which is legal) and not the latter (which isn't). You can make money with MLM, it's just that most people don't.

A few years ago I had to evaluate Pre-Paid Legal to get my Dad out of that one. I don't know what it is, but older people are more susceptible to these sorts of pitches.

At some level, it's hilarious that there's a DMOZ category for Opportunities/Opposing_Views.
posted by dhartung at 12:37 AM on August 7, 2004

Old people love the idea of making it with no capital. You're nearing retirement, you're still not rich like you thought you would be, and you don't have the capital (or you think you don't) for a business. And these people stress retirement. You'll retire early, you'll retire young, your downline will pay for your retirement. It's a siren song for the almost-made-its. My ex's parents fell heavily for Amway based on a presentation like this.

I would have too, but I woke up the next morning and went "what the fuck?" And then I worked out that I could earn the same per hour after tax in a fast food joint, and that damn near any extra-curricular activity that paid (eg me in a band in a bar) was a more rewarding use of my time. So we didn't do it.

danwalker, a lot of the time these things are pitched as a business proposition, so one angle is to take this seriously. Work out the numbers, after expenses, after tax, for the hours that your mother can really contribute to it. It won't look even as good as a call centre then. Don't forget that motivational tapes/books are expenses. And don't fall for the tax deductible shit - all that really says is that you're taxed on profit. At best, you get a discount equal to your marginal tax rate.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:54 AM on August 7, 2004

the mental payload of the virus includes defense against naysayers.

Sweet phrasing. Payload. Virus. Defense. Naysayers. Nice.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:04 AM on August 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

And second, how do I tell my mother, in a respectful way, to lay off the frigging marketing already?

That would depend on your mother's personality. My own mother is a very direct, no-nonsense type who appreciates candor yet is willing to overlook the occasional social faux pas in her children. I found the best approach for situations when she's clearly in the wrong or aggravating me is to repeat for her, word for word, your question as a statement.

"Mom, I'm trying to think of a respectful way to tell you to lay off the frigging marketing already, but I'm having trouble - could you help?"
posted by Ryvar at 6:41 AM on August 7, 2004

If you could find someone who went thru it (or something similar) and could talk to her, that might do it. Personal experience always counts.
posted by amberglow at 9:33 AM on August 7, 2004

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