Everyone Gets Rich Quick If You Can: Expensive Study or Pyramid Scheme?
Fast cars tear through the Chasveld car park in Breda. Young men in tight suits and women with notebooks under their arms emerge and walk toward the Chase Theater. A group of youngsters from the controversial institute IM Academy are holding a show there. Message: Anyone can become rich and happy if you try hard enough. How can a company condemned as a pyramid scheme in other countries thrive in Brabant?
Omrop Prabandhe became a member of the IM Academy and spoke to the leavers. How to see this..?
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There is a happy atmosphere in the foyer and the smell of aftershave dominates the room of 1400 Dutch and Belgian youths. The speakers are many ‘successful’ young people who are widely heralded and greeted with fanfare.
The afternoon is filled with exciting presentations explaining how they became successful and how you can be too. Speakers express disdain for education, government, and the media. Those statements go in like sweet cake and are rewarded with applause.
“What your parents say isn’t always true. Everything we learned, we learned in school. Think for yourself,” says 21-year-old Luke Brands from Wallwijk.
“It sounds like a cult or a religion.”
When controversial American businessman Alex Morton takes the stage as the keynote speaker, hundreds of mobile phones fly into the air. It sounds like a concert by a famous rapper.
Morton is not a rapper, but an alumnus of the American IM Academy. The company offers courses on Cryptocurrency Trading, Succeeding in Social Media and Positive Thinking.
Many statements made during the event leaned towards conspiracy theories. So we gave some examples to Jelle van Buuren of Leiden University, who researches conspiracy theories. According to him, events at the IM Academy are very American. “It’s like a cult or a religion. Everyone seems to be in some sort of collective frenzy.”
“It’s not like everybody gets rich quick.”
According to Van Buren, the effect it has on someone differs from person to person. “If you get completely immersed in it, you don’t want to go for higher studies. In the end, you may come home from being a rogue. As they say success is not a simple choice. Not everyone gets rich quick. , until you get some useful tips.”
At IM Academy, you can not only take get-rich-quick courses, but earn a lot of money by referring others as members. The young people who have brought in many new members are also highly respected. They create the impression that if you join social networking sites, you can become rich and live a luxurious life.
“We don’t know anything.”
Recruiting members within your own circle of friends is called network marketing. If it’s more about recruiting than the product being sold, it’s probably a pyramid scheme. It is banned in the Netherlands.
In other countries, IM Academy receives a lot of criticism. Members were arrested in Spain last year and the company was convicted in Belgium of fraud and organizing a pyramid scheme. The Belgian court refers to the European Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
Keynote speaker Alex Morton is controversial having previously worked at Vemma. The company has been convicted in the US for organizing a pyramid scheme. Morton left the company two weeks before that ruling.
Nevertheless, the organization in the Netherlands can continue unhindered and organize a major event in Breda. Chassé Theater is silent: “We are not aware that there is a judicial investigation against this organization in the Netherlands or that this organization or its activities have been banned.”
Police and the Public Prosecution Service declined to say whether an investigation into IM Academy was underway or whether there were reports. The IM Academy and Brabant Youth, which co-organised the event, did not respond to our queries.
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