More than 30 Florida A&M University students have reported being victimized by the North Carolina-based pyramid scheme dubbed 12 Daily Pro, said Clark Caras, a Florida Division of Securities spokesman.
The Auto-Surf program, which has thousands of alleged victims nationwide, is a traffic exchange site where members earn money for viewing the Web sites owned or promoted by online professionals, netted $50 million from 300,000 investors worldwide.
It was launched on May 11, 2005.
12DP was registered as a legal, tax-paying business on September 7, 2005 under the title Life Clicks, LLC. As of Feb. 12, there were over 338,100 members and was ranked by Alexa.com in the top 350 Web sites.
Once popular, the site is now the subject of multiple federal and state investigations. 12DP and Life Clicks were placed under the control of Thomas F. Lennon, a United States District Court appointed receiver, at the request of the Securities and Exchange Commission, on March 1.
Lennon will be in charge of figuring out where the money has gone and to whom it rightfully belongs. Additionally, the SEC has obtained a court order seizing the assets, accounts and records of the Internet venture and its sole owner, Charis Johnson.
Steven O’Neil, 22, a third-year pharmacy student from Orlando said, “We are very good at networking. We trust each other. And if you combine that with not knowing finance very well and the dangers then you have a perfect storm for a pyramid scheme,” of the site’s campus popularity.
James Mitchell’s roommate introduced him to the site.
“It seemed to good to be true,” admitted the 23-year-old senior pharmacy student from Homestead.
Despite his gut instinct, Mitchell invested $3,000 and in two months time, earned about $10,000.
Then lightening struck.
“Once the money was supposed to get disbursed, I found out the scheme: whoever put money in at the end, paid the people who put money in at the beginning,” explained Mitchell.
Although he never received the $10,000, his initial investment was returned.
“I made sure my initial investment was processed as a credit card, not a debit. I new at the end of the day, I would get my money back if it didn’t work,” Mitchell said.
Many investors are following suit following the announcement of the SEC’s March 27 permanent injunction which stated: “12Daily Pro investors are not prohibited from exercising rights provided under credit card agreements with respect to charges directed to 12Daily Pro.”
This means investors can call credit card companies and request a “charge back.”
In short – there’s a chance to get some money back.
Students are not the only victims of alleged Ponzi or pyramid schemes, Internet fraud or investment scams.
“The elderly are particularly susceptible to being duped because they’re more vulnerable, trusting and possess an estimated 70 percent of the nation’s wealth,” said Thomas LeNoir, a portfolio manager for Capital City Bank. “Tallahassee’s demographics, including its large retirement population and sizable number of college-age-youth make residents an attractive target for fraud.”
LeNoir suggested a host of things people can do to protect themselves.
They include asking questions until you understand the details of an offer or investment, monitor investments yourself even if a representative is assigned the task, and ensure the investment agent is licensed.
“Get everything in writing, get a copy and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” LeNoir cautioned.
In the meantime, it seems as though lightening can strike twice.
It has been announced that Life Clicks, LLC will launch a new program that is anticipated to mimic the success of 12DP.
12 Daily Pro investors, here’s what you can do: Contact the Thomas F. Lennon Inc., the Receiver.
Questions should be sent in written form by e-mail to email@example.com or by facsimile to (619) 465-9288.
You may also record your message at (619) 464-6691.
The FBI is still requesting people involved in 12 Daily Pro to file a complaint at http://www.ic3.gov.
Consider calling your credit card company and ask for a charge back for any charges that are fraudulent related to 12 Daily Pro (or via StormPay).
Contact Alaythia Burkins at firstname.lastname@example.org