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Beware of pyramid scheme disguised as 'gifting circle' Divine Prosperity Blossom

18 February 2021 2:29 PM

A financial expert has warned locals not to fall for a pyramid scheme known as Divine Prosperity Blossom that has sprung up in Cape Town.

The Divine Prosperity Blossom is an international so-called “gifting circle” where friends and families supposedly come together in a protected, sacred space to support each other emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

Every member requires $500 (over R7,000) to join and they are encouraged to recruit two more friends who will, in turn, make the circle bigger.

After four weeks, members are promised that they will earn a 'gift' of $4,000 in return (almost R60,000).

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler says the international scheme originated in the US and has made its way across the globe, cropping up in Australia and in South Africa.

The scheme leans on religious and spiritual rhetoric to draw in members. Knowler says the brochure for the "gifting circle" is filled with evangelical fervour and florid language.

The scheme appears to have a presence in Cape Town, targeting vulnerable business owners who have been hit by the devastating financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Knowler spoke to an unnamed Cape Town woman who was lured into the network. She says the scheme is targeting vulnerable people through emotional manipulation, especially women, promising to provide a 'sisterhood'.

You can see why it finds fertile ground here, particularly in Cape Town, because there's nothing hard financial about it. It's all dressed up in 'abundant sharing', 'solidarity'... it seems mainly women working to help each other outside of traditional financial institutions.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

It's not just about emotional support. It all boils down to money.

Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist

RELATED: Does it sound too good to be true? 7 signs that it's a dodgy get-rich-quick scam

Financial advisor Erin White says Divine Prosperity Blossom is without a doubt a pyramid scheme because it involves a chain of recruitment for financial gain.

White says the scheme refers to payout transactions as "gifts" in a bid to mask the true nature of the scheme.

The messaging also focuses on the idea of building a "support network" instead of the remuneration aspect of the proposition.

"Once you cut through all of the fancy words, at the very heart of it, it is definitely a pyramid scheme.

They seem to be trying to form a group of like-minded people who follow this process unquestionably with very little access to the details behind it.

Erin White, Certified Financial Planner - Crue Invest

They are certainly trying to make it seem like it's a very exclusive community...When you start asking questions about the finances and the money, they tell you not to worry [because] it's about the community at the end of the day.

Erin White, Certified Financial Planner - Crue Invest

You need to keep recruiting new members... They have tried to make it look like a 'circle or a 'flower'. They use very confusing words intentionally, but ultimately you need to keep getting new members in, in order to move up the pecking order so to speak.

Erin White, Certified Financial Planner - Crue Invest

Listen to the ConsumerTalk segment on Lunch with Pippa Hudson:




18 February 2021 2:29 PM

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