A Living Workshop:
Consumer Protection issues warning over A Living Workshop 'pyramid scheme'
June 3, 2018
A PYRAMID scheme masquerading as a women's empowerment circle - which demands new members fork out thousands of dollars to join - is believed to have sprung up in the South West, prompting a warning from the State's consumer watchdog.
It's understood the scam, called A Living Workshop, is operating in the South West after Consumer Protection obtained information leaflets from a Margaret River resident who was approached as a potential recruit.
they are not allowed to tell their family or friends
People interested in joining "the sisterhood" - described as "Seeds" - first must pay $5000 to $7000 to another woman in the group, with the top status known as "Lotus". While there's no guarantee of a return, they are assured they will reap an eight-fold windfall at some stage. Other levels in the circle include Sapling (inviting other women to join) and Blossom (mentoring other women).
In documents seen by The Sunday Times, potential members are repeatedly told a key rule of the group is a strict code of silence, in which they are not allowed to tell their family or friends about the circle, speak in public about it or even text or email about it. The guidelines state this is to "shelter us from invasive censure and to support us in creating an emotionally safe container for growth".
"Just as we make offerings in reverence of what we hold sacred in our lives, we each participate in this empowerment experience with a similarly reverent offering of financial energy," the documents state about the reason for the $5000 demand.
Recruiters suggest bold ways to raise the $5000 gift, including taking out a second mortgage, getting a second job, selling a car or boat, borrowing against a life insurance policy, asking parents for an advance on an inheritance, asking friends for loans and applying for a credit card.
Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said A Living Workshop had all the hallmarks of being a pyramid scheme that preyed on vulnerable women, who were looking for spiritual and financial fulfilment.
"When you strip away the spiritual aspect of the group's manifesto, it is merely a pyramid scheme where only a few at the top will benefit financially and most at the bottom are highly likely to lose their money," he said.
Mr Hillyard urged members to break the veil of secrecy surrounding the scheme and come forward so Consumer Protection could investigate and identify its origins and organisers. He also warned participation in a pyramid scheme was illegal.
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