Escaping a pyramid scheme

By Lisa Lee Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/10 17:03:39

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Last Saturday can be counted as one of the top three most unforgettable days of my friend Derek's life, as well as for me and my friends.

Derek was cheated by one of his friends and taken to the suburban area of Tianjin into a pyramid scheme organization's den. It took almost 12 hours for me and my friends to find him and get him back to Beijing.

In the morning, he sent a location to our WeChat group and joked that if he was taken by a pyramid scheme organization that we could go and rescue him there. We all thought he was joking. But in the afternoon we lost contact with him. No matter how we sent him messages or how many times we called him, there was no response. We began panicking.

At about 5 pm, he sent a message saying it was indeed a pyramid scheme, and he was in a remote location.

We were all scared because a university graduate named Li Wenxing just died in Tianjin, and the news said his death was related to pyramid schemes.

So we began to discuss how to rescue him. Some say that only family members can call the police and place the case on file immediately, while people with no blood relation need to wait until the person is missing for 24 hours. But no one knew how to contact his family. We tried contacting his former employer, but they didn't know his family members' contacts either.

Finally, I visited his QQ Space, where his QQ friends can leave a message, and saw a girl call him "brother." I searched the girl's QQ in WeChat and found out that she was his sister.

She said she would call the police, but also she was worried about her brother's safety if she made the call. At that time, Derek sent another location via WeChat, and one of our friends offered to drive to Tianjin and pick him up.

Two hours later, he arrived at the location where there was a villa zone. Derek successfully got away from the pyramid scheme members and they drove back to Beijing.

He said the pyramid scheme is called "50300." The members asked him to give them 50,300 yuan ($7,526) and for him to persuade others to join. If he followed their instructions, they said in a few years he could make more than one million yuan, since he would get part of the money turned in by people he introduced to the organization and from the people they introduced as well.

"It was terrible and the whole social circle of theirs was full of lies," said Derek. "The friend who took me to Tianjin has planned to pull me in for a long time, and I realized that many of the people she introduced me to in the name of socializing and networking were all members of the pyramid scheme."

The pyramid scheme seem to be more and more rampant in China, especially in the suburban areas of big cities. Be careful when your friends suddenly contact you or over-zealously introduce you to "part-time jobs" that require you to travel to a strange place.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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