“Open-minded ka ba?” This question is often used as an opener to a networking presentation, which you may have probably seen in many a coffee shop. While it has already been the butt of jokes and memes, the implications and effects of pyramiding schemes turned sour are nothing to be laughed at, as these scams have swindled people of their life savings.

The government has been tracking down the proponents of networking and pyramiding scams, and recently, six officials of One Lightning Corporation are being slapped with syndicated estafa. One Lightning Corporation has allegedly stolen at least P70 million from its victims.

So before you even think of letting go of your hard-earned cash based on honeyed promises of huge returns, do a double take, listen to your gut, and follow these tips:

1. Educate yourself.

Before investing your money, always know what you’re getting yourself into. Scams are like rabbit holes: They’re pretty deep and can be hard to crawl out from.

2. Do a background check.

Is the person offering you the investment reputable? Does he or she come from a legit investment company? Do your research, ask for documentation, and if you can, visit the firm.

3. If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.

It’s so easy to be swayed by a smooth-talker telling you that he or she can double or even triple your investment. The trick is to first ask how: How will your investment grow? How are they planning to invest your money? Do they have any basis to make such claims?

4. Don’t deal with people who are unlicensed.

People who sell securities or who come up to you as a fund manager should always first be licensed by the SEC. If he or she isn’t—even if you know the person—turn down the offer.

5. File a complaint to the government.

If ever the worst happens and you are scammed, collect evidence and report your issue to the SEC. Some scammers may convince you to keep silent, but that fact that they’re asking you not to report them is an admission of their guilt. Remember that they have your money. They technically owe you, so if you file a case instead of believing the promises of people who have swindled you, then you have higher chances of retrieving your investment.

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