Concept and basic models
The "Eight-Ball" model
Connection to multi-level marketing
- Find—and study—the company’s track record.
- Learn about the product.
- Ask questions.
- Understand any restrictions.
- Talk to other distributors. Beware of shills.
- Consider using a friend or adviser as a neutral sounding board, or for a gut check.
- Take your time.
- Think about whether this plan suits your talents and goals.
Connection to franchise fraud
Notable recent cases
In popular culture
- In The King of Queens episode entitled "Soft Touch", Doug gets sucked into a pyramid scheme when his persuasive neighbor recruits him to sell water filters.
- Stanton, a character of Charles Maturin's famous novel Melmoth the Wanderer, while put in Bedlam by his relative, finds a plan, written by some of his predecessors in the room he is placed. It is a plan of baptising all the population of Ottoman Empire, beginning with the Turkish ambassador, and is a classical pyramid scheme.
- The feature film Children of Invention tells the story of a mother who gets entangled in a pyramid scheme.
- The novel Welcome to the N.H.K. features a story arc wherein the main character is caught up in a crooked multi-level marketing scam called Mouse Road.
- On the NBC sitcom The Office, it is revealed that Michael did not attend college because he lost all his tuition money in a pyramid scheme. At a later date, the same character unintentionally attempts to recruit members of his staff into selling calling cards, not realizing that he had been conned into a pyramid scheme until it is made clear by an employee.
- Season one of the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show, features an episode in which Jeremy becomes involved in a pyramid scheme after being ignorantly drawn into it by his neighbor Toni, whom he is trying to seduce.
- The 2010 film The Fighter features Dicky Eklund attempting a pyramid scheme to help pay for his brother's training.
- In two episodes of the sitcom Two and a Half Men entitled "Three Hookers and a Philly Cheesesteak" and "That Darn Priest", Alan runs a Ponzi scheme, targeting family and friends, in the name of his chiropractor business until Rose finds out and threatens to tell all his investors if he does not stop.
- In 2014, 62 artists in Brooklyn, New York created a pyramid scheme as new way of curating a contemporary art exhibit. "The Pyramid Scheme will not only reveal patterns and themes within contemporary art, but the social support structures which enable its creation."
- In the King of the Hill episode entitled "Bill of Sales" Peggy gets caught up in a pyramid scheme.
- In the episode of The Simpsons titled "I Married Marge", Homer attends an investment seminar where the host introduces the 'Trapezoid Scheme' as an alternative to a Pyramid Scheme, before jumping out of a nearby window after hearing police sirens.
- In the episode of Kath & Kim titled "Money", Kath organizes a pyramid scheme lingerie party with Kim and Sharon modeling the merchandise so that Kath can raise enough money to pay for a pumpkin style coach for her upcoming wedding.
- In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode entitled "Mac and Dennis Buy a Timeshare", Sweet Dee begins selling for 'Invigaron', a multi-level marketing scam involving South American berries that bills itself as a 'Reverse Funnel System', using an upside-down triangle to demonstrate how it works. Frank points out to her that it's a pyramid scheme after telling her to turn the Reverse Funnel upside down.
- Franchise fraud
- High-yield investment program
- Madoff investment scandal
- Claims of Social Security as a pyramid scheme
- Aman Futures Group
- Cobra Group (company)
- Holiday Magic
- Make Money Fast
- Nouveau Riche University
- Success University