Would you believe it if someone told you that you could turn $1000 into $3650 in one year, every year, absolutely guaranteed? What about turning $10,000 into $36,500? Odds are likely you would be suspicious of such claims given that a typical well performing Wall Street investment would average out to about 4% per year. But in the world of Ponzi schemes and HYIP scams, these kinds of promises are the norm. So join us as we dig into an apparent Ponzi scheme that’s promising 1% per day every day, for life.
Deconstructing a Ponzi Scheme
If you’re not familiar with the term, a Ponzi scheme is a kind of scam investment in which potential investors (victims) are tricked into getting involved and typically lose all their invested capital. These scams promise incredibly high rates of return, daily payouts, and guaranteed profits. Ponzi schemes have been around for a long time, but unfortunately they found a new home and a new batch of fresh victims in cryptocurrency.
The most infamous of these crypto Ponzi schemes was of course BitConnect which crashed and burned not long ago, taking untold millions of dollars of investors money with it. But even with the widely discussed BitConnect hitting headlines everywhere, it seems that scammers are still out in force and new schemes are popping up all the time.
The other day we came across another apparent scam, this one claiming it makes its money through real estate and offering guaranteed profits with no risk.
WestLand Storage – a “Real Estate” Company
The site we’re looking at today is WestLand Storage (westlandstorage.com). This site claims that it is a real estate investment platform in which investors can purchase individual square feet of real estate which is then supposedly rented or leased out. The profits from doing this are then returned to the investor at a rate of 1% per day. The company claims that this profit is absolutely guaranteed, and that there is no risk of any kind of loss whatsoever.
If your mental alarm bells aren’t going off already, they should be.
The company claims to have been around for 17 years, and says that they have a worldwide network of real estate which is up for tokenization and investment.
To identify a Ponzi scheme, you usually only need to find two things. The first is an offering of a ridiculous and unsustainable payout rate, and the second is a claim that these earnings are guaranteed and risk-free.
On the site, we found both of those.
Unsustainable high-yields, Image from westlandstorage.com
Guaranteed profits, image from westlandstorage.com
Running the Numbers
According to this fantasy, renting out real estate can yield an investor 1% of their total investment per day. Now let’s imagine how that would work in the real world.
Suppose that you were to rent a residential property. Would you expect to pay 1% of the total value of the real estate you are renting, every single day?
Let’s do a simple example. Let’s say that you’re renting a small single-family residential home in rural America. The total value of that home is $250,000. If what WestLand storage was promising were true and accurately reflected the real estate market, then you would expect to pay 1% per day to rent this home. That means your rent would be $2500 a day. Going further, that would mean to rent your home, it would cost $75,000 a month.
At that price, you might as well buy the home as you’re going to end up paying its entire price after just a few months. In the real world (and not the Ponzi scheme fantasy world) you could reasonably expect to pay anywhere from $1000-$2000 a month to rent a small residential home outside of a big city in the US. That’s per month, mind you, not per day.
Spelling Mistakes Abound
Another major indicator of a scam of this sort is the general low effort and total lack of quality control visible in the site’s design. Most often, this manifests itself in the form of numerous spelling and grammar errors all over the site, as well as the near exclusive use of stock images.
We found a number of major spelling and grammar errors on the site such as this one:
How musch, indeed!
And this grammar mistake:
While many blockchain projects come from non-native English speaking countries, if these projects are serious about appearing professional they will likely hire someone to edit or spell check their white paper or website. These types of Ponzi schemes, on the other hand, typically only exist for 3 to 6 months, or at most one year, before they collapse. As such, these scam site operators simply do not care to put in the effort to make sure their spelling and grammar are correct.
Typically, these sorts of scams will spread through word-of-mouth via affiliate marketing links.
For this particular site, they seem to have paid a number of smaller crypto news websites to place an identical paid press release (which is also written quite poorly) on each one.
The exact same press release is linked on 9 other websites from westlandstorage.com, and dozens more can be found via a search. This includes a few sites which appear to have provided a translation for the press release. You can tell because they all contain the name “Mark Zuckerberg”.
The press release ends with an alleged quote from someone named James Griffin of Today Real Estate Analyst Company. A quick search revealed only links to the various copies of this press release.
Search results for “Today Real Estate Analyst Company”
Typically when a crypto news website directly posts a press release they will include a statement indicating that the release was provided by an outside third party, and that the site does not in any way endorse or approve of the content within. For example on bitcoinist.com, such a statement is included with the WestLand Storage PR piece.
It’s safe to say that this particular scam decided to have these paid press releases placed on a number of websites in order to give them an air of legitimacy. However, they have not received any actual endorsement from these sites that wasn’t paid for.
It’s unfortunate that cryptocurrency seems to inevitably attract all sorts of different kinds of scams and schemes. That’s why it’s important to always keep your investment expectations realistic. And if anyone starts promising guaranteed returns or 1% daily or more, turn around and walk away.