Over the weekend, I received a Facebook message from a friend that I had not seen or spoken to since 1993. That was early high school for me. Back then, he and I were pretty good friends. We played a lot of back yard tackle football, and hung out in classes a good bit with the other friends in our peer group. So we were good friends until I moved away, but twenty years is quite a long gap.
A year or so ago, we found each other on Facebook. Neither of us reached out to catch up, so you can imagine that I was a bit surprised to get this message (complete with grammatical errors) from him over the weekend:
Hayden I have something you got to check out.. My wife joined a few months back and I will admit it took me a few times to really get it and believe it but its legit. check out this video it explains a lot and if you have questions at all call me or message me(cell [phone number redacted]) [website redacted].
Immediately, I think, This is spam. He’s been hacked. I mean, only the most legitimate organizations begin by defending themselves with, “We’re legit.” Right?
“Hi, you should check out this company called Costco. My wife joined them a few months back and I will admit it took me a few times to really get it and believe it, but it’s legit.”
“Hi, you should check out this company called The Georgia Aquarium. My wife joined them a few months back and I will admit it took me a few times to really get it and believe it, but it’s legit.”
So, I figured I’d do him a favor and inform him of the hack, lest his unintentional spam hit anyone else.
I got this reply back.
Lol it was really me the link is [company name]
So the spam was intentional. Oh my. I felt an initial rush of embarrassment for assuming his personal message was spam. But that lasted about four nanoseconds before changing into embarrassment for him for having intentionally spammed me. “Now this is awkward,” I thought. Immediately, my mind went to Michael Scott in the garage of his condo, trying to convince Jim and Andy to invest in Serenity by Jan.
Unsure of what to do, but not wanting to simply ignore him, I replied.
HA! What is it?
His reply only confirmed my initial gut reaction.
It a way to travel and make money at the same time watch the video it’s only 14 minutes long
“Did he move to Nigeria?” I wondered aloud. And to assume that 14 minutes is a short video is a bit presumptuous. Doesn’t he know I have kids running around, college football games to watch, shoes to re-lace, paint to watch as it dries…
The list of more things more important than watching a 14 minute video for a scam is virtually endless. So, not wanting to burst his bubble, I decided to let this conversation slip away into the ether.
But 24 hours later, he messaged me again.
Hey man did you ever get a chance to watch that video? This company has changed my wife in so many positive ways I had to really give it a closer look and it is probably the most positive people I have ever been around
Really. Hmm. Well, passengers on the Titanic were positive even after the ship had struck an iceberg and was taking on water, but I digress. Since when does positivity equal legitimacy? I’m positive, too–positive this is a conversation about a scam. Still, I now felt obligated to let him know I was not interested since my silence had apparently not communicated that.
Short. Simple. Honest, but also rather blunt–with a hint that he should also be careful if he chooses to move forward. I thought that would be the last I heard from him about it. His reply came back.
Understand if its not for you its just not. I wish you would have checked the video out first but that’s ok. I can google anything and find negative info even Jesus.
I see. Maybe I don’t understand the opportunity because I didn’t watch the video. And did he just indirectly compare this vacation club to Jesus?!
Unfortunately, I had watched the video. I even Googled them. What I found wasn’t good, not that I was optimistic. Now, I felt I needed to just level with him.
I watched the video. I felt suspicious when they started talking about the “viral” blue sign that I’d never seen before. About 5 minutes in, it started to sound like one of those high-pressure membership clubs. About 8 minutes in, it started to sound like a pyramid scheme.
That’s when I Googled the name of the company. I typed the name, and the first live search result that came up was accompanied by the word “scam” and the next one was accompanied by the words “pyramid scheme”. There were lots of results for both. The only place I found any positive comments was in the video you sent.
I’m guessing you reached out because you get some kind of return for recruiting others. That’s also a red flag for me, because it is further symptomatic of a classic pyramid scheme, where under the surface, the focus is more on the recruitment to membership than the product, itself.
You are right that you can find lots of negative info on the internet, including negative info about Jesus. When this vacation club has been radically transforming people’s lives for thousands of years as Jesus has, they will probably still have their dissenters. But maybe by then the positive testimony on the Internet will outweigh the negative. That does not currently seem to be the case.
We are extremely judicious about our finances. We are from the Dave Ramsey school of thought. We keep a budget. We live beneath our means. We are big savers, and we’ve learned to carefully vet anything we buy, from cars all the way down to our deodorant. So any kind of monthly recurring membership with up front fees is not something I would be interested in anyway, even if they offered trips to space (which I would at least be tempted by). This is even more true when the goal of the program is to get money from me now on the promise of later benefits. Red lights and alarms are going off everywhere in my head, man. The video only made me more suspicious.
We were always great friends in our much younger days, and it really is great to hear from you. I will say it is difficult to communicate how much anyone selling this type of product is barking up the wrong tree by trying to sell it to me. All the same, if it works for you, I hope you enjoy it, but even more so, I hope you don’t get taken for a ride or cause anyone else to. I would hate to see any friendships ruined that way.
Regardless, I hope you and the family are well. Just know that I’m not a good target for this type of thing. At all. Best to you, bro.
His reply was understanding and appreciative, but also still a bit defensive of the opportunity. We politely moved on to exchange other pleasantries about work and family. For my part, I at least felt good about warning him about the company, but if someone decides to swim with sharks in the water, that is their business.
Just don’t expect me to come swim, too.