While researching various unusual and alternative investments online, I recognized many of the investments that are mentioned, things like: cat bonds, tax liens, p2p loans, and parking spaces. One term that I did not recognize kept coming up: HYIPs. HYIP stands for High-Yield Investment Program. In the US, we may not recognize the term HYIP, but we are familiar with the term Ponzi scheme. Named after the famous huckster Charles Ponzi, Ponzi schemes often promise a guaranteed return of anywhere from 20% annually up to 1000% or more per year. In reality, all they do is use new investments to pay a return to earlier investors. Even though Bernie Madoff was able to keep his scam going for 20+ years, these types of schemes typically do not last long. Some of the brazen online HYIP programs brag about having lasted 900 days. My guess it that the majority of them take in money for a few days or weeks and never actually pay out anyone anything.
HYIP Monitor Websites
A number of HYIP websites that monitor and rate the “best” HYIP programs have sprung up on the Internet. They make money through affiliate programs; they get a cut of any money the HYIP program they refer visitors to takes in. Shockingly, there are people that willingly want to participate in this type of scheme. Either they know it will collapse eventually, but want to get in early enough to earn an astronomical return before it does, or they are simply laundering money, and willing to take a loss if they can get a portion of their “dirty” money back in a more “clean” form. The typical HYIP monitor or rating site has flashy rating logos and icons for deposit methods like Bitcoin, Payeer, and Skrill.
Presumably they have a small amount of money deposited in each of these websites, and they keep track of how long they have been monitoring it and what their return is to this point. For instance, one scheme they are monitoring is a purported high-yield Health Care Investment. It says they have been monitoring it for 309 days and to this point, it has paid a 134.00% return. Another one that is said to have gone on for 1283 days has paid a 4839.19% return (allegedly).
There is absolutely no way of knowing if they have ever invested a penny of any of these schemes and that any of the returns are real. They are not audited by a reputable accounting firm and the incentive for HYIP monitoring websites is to attract more investors (and thus 1 to 10% referral bonuses) on new money. By promoting a variety of different returns and days monitored, they can appeal to the psychology of various potential investors (aka victims); some might prefer a newer scheme, some might prefer a return that seems less outlandish, while others will go after the oldest scheme or the one with the biggest return.
The HYIP Companies Themselves
Both the HYIP monitor websites and the HYIP company websites themselves often feature poorly written English, rudimentary graphic design and fonts, and cheap template interfaces. Some of them look exactly the same with just the name, the stock photos on top, and the background color being slightly different. All are enormous red flags that these companies and investment funds are fake.
Some of the sites just promise a daily return without promoting any type of investment scheme or business idea. Basically, you give us money and we will give you your money back plus a 1% daily return or whatever. For the HYIPs that claim to actually use your money to make money, some of the most common claims of how they make money are: Forex trading, biotech companies like single drug pharmaceutical companies or medical device companies that claim a patent is imminent, automated online poker, Bitcoin mining or trading, penny auctions, penny stocks, European banking, prime banking, platform trading, private platform programs (PPPs), or medium-term note trading.
Just ask yourself, if a company was successful at something, why would they raise money in this fashion? The amount they would have to pay out to investors would be astronomical. They would be so much better off raising in any of a myriad of other ways from taking out loans with commercial banks to raising venture capital.
Where to Find Out More about High-Yield Investment Programs
Some of the best resources include:
- SEC – Warning to Investors about Prime Bank Scams
- FINRA – HYIPs are Hazardous to Your Portfolio Health
- FBI – More than One Hundred Individuals Defrauded Through Online Investment Scheme