Eliza Briscoe was told that all she had to do was put up $500 and bring in two additional people who would each contribute the same amount of money. In a little more than four weeks, she would get $4,000 in return.
Like so many others being recruited for a “sou-sou,” Briscoe was nearly duped into a pyramid scheme.
It’s hard not to be sold on the altruistic and cultural backstory of the sou-sou, also known as “Susu,” “blessing loom” or “gifting circle.” Promoters pitch the sou-sou as a common practice among Caribbean and African immigrants as a way to help their businesses grow. Briscoe was told she would be helping other Black folks, some of whom may have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.
“Just don’t do it,” Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said in an interview. “Think about it. How is it possible for everybody to get $4,000? It is a crime to be part of this and soliciting people for it. It also means that you’re putting your friends and family members at risk. There are way more victims than winners in these pyramid schemes.”
Frosh said his office has seen an uptick in pyramid schemes as the pandemic has resulted in massive job losses. The Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and many other state attorneys general have issued consumer alerts.