The British Columbia Securities Commission is warning the public about schemes selling virtual “shares” that supposedly increase in value as more buyers are recruited.
The virtual shares in these “split games” have been marketed and sold primarily in the Lower Mainland’s Chinese community by B.C.-based promoters of FullCarry (formerly known as Furuida Global or FRD Global) and International Money Tree (IMT).
The virtual shares are apparently not backed by any underlying asset, and can only be bought and sold on an online portal specific to each game. The organizers claim that rising demand will drive up the price of their shares, which supposedly never lose their overall value. When the price hits a certain threshold, the shares split – perhaps doubling or tripling in number and returning to their original price.
The repeating cycle of rising demand and share-splitting is touted to be the key to a lucrative income. The organizers, however, limit how many shares users can convert to conventional currency, and charge a 10 per cent transaction fee for selling them.
The organizers focus on recruiting more participants by giving buyers bonuses for each additional person they and their recruits bring into the game. The BCSC is concerned that these “split games” are operating as pyramid schemes – a business model in which payouts depend on the recruitment of new investors.
“Whenever someone promises high returns with little or no risk, that’s a warning sign,” said Doug Muir, the BCSC’s Director of Enforcement. “These split games, like other pyramid schemes, depend on more and more people buying in. You could easily lose your entire investment.”
B.C.-based promoters of FullCarry, which purports to be incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and based in Dubai, have held meetings in Vancouver and Richmond, and operate a private WeChat group. IMT purports to be headquartered and operated in Singapore.
The games being promoted in B.C. are similar to online investment schemes that have surfaced in China and Malaysia. The organizers of one such scheme have been sanctioned by Malaysian authorities for issuing unauthorized payment instruments.
The BCSC urges anyone who has any information about a split game, or is approached to invest in one, to contact the BCSC Inquiries line at 604-899-6854 or 1-800-373-6393 or to file a complaint online. The BCSC first learned of these schemes through its online complaint form.
For information on how to become better informed about investment products and services, please visit InvestRight at www.investright.org.