'Women Empowering Women' typically promotes its scam with talk of a 'gifting circle', 'universal understanding of our birthright' and 'fields of abundance'. In reality it dupes new recruits into handing over£3,000 to one of their friends who is already a member in return for a heart-shaped token. All women who do so are told they can expect a£24,000 return. The literature states that the more people you recruit to pay the£3,000, the greater your return, as you progress from 'Supporter' to 'Apprentice' to 'Elder receiver'. Members are informed that the society prefers to recruit others by word of mouth.
The scheme does not breach current Trading Standards laws. In addition, because the scheme is spread by word of mouth and leaflets between individuals, the Advertising Standards Authority are unable to investigate.
'Women Empowering Women' swept through the Isle of Wight earlier this year, with many people incurring heavy losses and families and friends attempting to recruit each other to ensure they got their money back. So far, it is believed to have gripped Glasgow, Oldham, Wigan, Bermondsey, Croydon, North Somerset, Chelsea and Derbyshire.
Allan Charlesworth, chief executive, Trading Standards Institute, said: 'This is a deplorable scam that tugs at the heart strings of the vulnerable. Things that look too good to be true, like this, so often are. My advice to anyone receiving an approach is to simply throw it in the bin. Those who are tempted by the prospect of extra cash should follow the advice given on the National Debt Advice Line on
080808-4000 or contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau. It is high time effective legislation was introduced to stop these rip offs.?
Tony Northcott, spokesman for the Trading Standards Institute, added: 'This scheme appears to be typical of pyramid schemes. There are a few people at the top of the pyramid making vast fortunes out of those at the bottom of the pyramid. If you are at the bottom, you will lose your money.
'The message is simple - if you cannot afford to lose£3,000 and the friends that you recruit, don't take part. Sooner or later, there will be thousands of losers, and you'll probably be one of them.'