Women’s spiritual group identified as an illegal pyramid scheme (A Living Workshop)

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A women’s spiritual and support group believed to be operating in WA’s South-West has been identified as having all of the hallmarks of an illegal pyramid scheme with Consumer Protection warning people not to take part.

A Living Workshop is recruiting women to join their group offering “a higher quality of life through education, empowerment and feminine collaboration”, but they must first pay a $5,000 “gift” with no guarantee of return, but the basis of joining is that you will at some point get a windfall.

Information leaflets that the group provides members have been obtained by Consumer Protection from a concerned Margaret River resident who had been invited to join but recognised it as a pyramid scheme.

In the documents, new members are referred to as “Seeds (Giving)” and must provide their “gift” to existing members of the group who have achieved “Lotus (Receiving)” status within the “giving and receiving circle”. Two women in the group have “Blossom (Supporting)” status and conduct weekly one-hour conference calls with members.

Methods of raising the $5,000 “gift” are suggested which include: having a garage sale; getting people who owe you money to pay up; getting a second job; selling the car or boat; having a fundraising party, raffle or auction; applying for a credit card; borrowing from friends; asking parents for an advance on an inheritance; borrowing against a life insurance policy; taking out a second mortgage on your home; meditating or praying with positive affirmations; finding an “angel” to gift you the money; and getting a Feng Shui consultant to do a cure for attracting the money and then checking your mailbox regularly for the money being sent.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the information supplied indicates clearly that A Living Workshop is a pyramid scheme that preys on vulnerable women.

“This group targets women looking for spiritual and financial fulfilment as well as a sense of belonging, but it comes at a high price,” Mr Hillyard said.

“When you strip away the spiritual aspect of the group’s manifesto, it is merely a pyramid scheme where only a few at the top will benefit financially and most at the bottom are highly likely to lose their money.

“Members are encouraged to introduce new people, or ‘backers’, to the group to maintain the scheme and, without a continuing supply of new members, the scheme eventually collapses.

“Our research has revealed that “Women’s Gifting Circles” originated in the United States and Bali in the 1980’s and have spread throughout the world. In these cases, women are promised returns of up to $60,000 from their initial $5,000 to $7,000 gift.

“Similar pyramid schemes masquerading as spiritual groups were uncovered in Byron Bay NSW and New Zealand last year.

“A code of silence is enforced on the members of the group who are advised not to reveal their discussions or activities with anyone outside the “sisterhood” including family and friends.

“We would appeal to members of the group to break that shroud of secrecy and come forward so we can investigate further and identify the originators and organisers. Anyone who is thinking about joining a pyramid scheme is advised that participation is illegal and they could face prosecution, along with promoters of the scheme.”

Anyone with information about A Living Workshop or any other pyramid scheme is urged to contact Consumer Protection by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or call 1300 30 40 54. More information on pyramid schemes is available on the Consumer Protection website.


Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
03 Jun 2018

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