High Yield Investment Program (HYIP)
A High Yield Investment Program, or HYIP, is a type of investment pyramid scheme normally offered via the Internet. HYIPs typically accept deposits as low as $1 while promising astoundingly high returns.
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Online HYIP schemes rarely last for the long term. Overwhelming number of cases suggest that HYIPs are Ponzi schemes, in which new investors provide the cash to pay a profit to existing investors, which they typically then withdraw. This approach allows the scam to continue as long as new investors are found and/or old investors leave their money in the scheme, known as compounding (because even higher profits are promised).
The introduction of e-currencies has made it possible for HYIPs to operate on the internet and cross international boundaries, and to accept large numbers of small investments. HYIPs usually accept deposits by either e-currency, like e-gold, e-bullion and INTGold, or use specialist third party payment processors like AlertPay, SolidTrustPay, CEPTrust, TriStarMoneyChangers and StormPay. HYIPs typically offer a significant incentive commission (for example, 9% of invested funds) for members to attract and refer new investors.
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Most HYIPs disclose little or no detail about the underlying management, location, or other aspects of how money is to be invested, and relatively little information (other than asserting that they do various types of trading on various stock and other exchanges) on how they actually generate the returns they purport. They are sometimes presented with some form of an emotional appeal, appeals for faith, and promises that they will help investors achieve financial freedom.
Arguably, the largest HYIP scam that has existed on the internet was PIPS (People in Profit System or Pure Investors). The investment scheme was started by Bryan Marsden in early 2004, (according to the Wayback Machine record of http://pureinvestor.com) and spanned more than 20 countries. PIPS was investigated by Bank Negara Malaysia in 2005 which resulted in Marsden and his wife being charged in a Malaysian court with 97 counts of money laundering involving more than RM77 million - US$20 million - (copy of New Straits Times article dated 11 Oct 2006).
HYIPs typically claim to offer interest rates of 1% or more per day on invested funds; some claim to offer much higher daily rates exceeding 200% a day. Allegedly, the highest-return HYIP on record has offered 1,100% ROI in one day. Claims of astronomical returns without large capital outlay or background information are indicative of a Ponzi-structured HYIP program.
As a comparison with a typical 1% per day claim, Warren Buffett, one of the world's most successful investors, made around 30% per year during his most successful period; that is on average, less than 0.1% per day. As the claimed returns of 1% per day are extremely unlikely to be produced legitimately, all HYIPs are therefore likely to be Ponzi schemes, and so most investors will in due course lose their money.