The other day I was reading about what appears to be scam on a well-respect tech web site called the Verge. The company described in the article “Income At Home, Herbalife, and the $8 billion pyramid” appeared to describe a company that charged a great deal of money for little more than setting up the unwary consumer with an Herbal Life multi-level marketing program to recruit other distributors.

So I was shocked to find that people with credibility and who inspire some degree of trust, such as Sean Hannity, Dr. Laura, and Glen Beck are all promoting what appears to be little more than a money-making scheme with little probability of success. In essence disadvantaging those audience members who placed their trust in these hosts. Could it be the very same company as described in the Verge article?

The advertisement showing Hannity, Dr. Laura and others …


Could this be the same company?


Same distinctive logo! So it does appear to be the same company.

Here is what The Verge had to say about the company and the opportunity it presents … 

Income At Home, Herbalife, and the $8 billion pyramid

[The Verge Follows a typical customer]

The first step in this exciting opportunity was the purchase of an information packet for $9.95, so he went to incomeathome.com and entered his personal information, including home address and credit card number.

A few days later, the Internet Business Starter Pack arrived. Consisting of a single DVD and a 12 page glossy sales brochure that "could’ve been designed by some high school kid," according to Hansen, what most infuriated him was what the kit lacked: any indication of the actual business behind the business opportunity.

His curiosity pivoted. No longer wondering what sort of opportunity Income At Home might provide, he was now curious about who — or what — might be behind the company itself. Some rudimentary Google research led him to a constellation of nearly identical websites promoting the same info-product he had purchased. As if that wasn’t convoluted enough, running parallel to Income At Home was yet another business opportunity called Online Business Systems.

The Barbados offices of the Centurion Media Group are on the second floor of the Vista Building, a small office complex housing a half-dozen dropped-ceilinged, air-conditioned rooms with phone lines, particle board desks, hard commercial carpets, and windows facing a two-laned street that doesn’t look too busy. It’s just off Worthing Beach in a tourist haven built around hotels with names like Chateau Blanc and Anthurium Suites.

Barbados isn’t a "tax haven" in the most egregious sense: according to The Economist, it doesn’t even make a list that includes such exotic locales as Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming. But judging from the fact that well over 80 percent of the country’s corporate income is derived from foreign businesses, there must be some advantages to filing your paperwork in the Caribbean. One of those advantages, as The Verge discovered, is that discovering who exactly started the company isn’t just a simple matter of checking out an online database or making a phone call to a Secretary of State — as it would be if the company was located in, say, Nevada.

That isn’t to say that there is some sort of huge mystery surrounding the origins of Centurion, however. There is one name that appears consistently throughout the marketing of both Income At Home and Online Business Systems: that of a Vancouver-area businessman named Shawn Dahl.

Shawn Dahl is a friendly work at home family man with a penchant for polo shirts and new suits, neatly mussed hair, fishing, and snowmobiling

Yet everything connected to Centurion contains some degree of misdirection.

After repeated requests to speak to a company rep went unanswered — numerous phone calls and email messages, sent to Dahl and the company itself — it’s easy to conclude that he doesn’t want to appear on The Verge.

He’s no recluse, however. According to the online bios and snappy YouTube infomercials, Dahl is a friendly "work at home family man" with a penchant for polo shirts and new suits, neatly mussed hair, fishing, and snowmobiling. His Online Business Systems bio page claims his paycheck averages $33,000 a month, and maybe that’s true. He lives on a quaint, secluded side street, mere blocks from Boundary Bay in White Rock, British Columbia, where the average house sells for close to $1 million.

For instance, he's featured in at least one Income At Home ad, always with the very strong suggestion — although it’s never stated outright — that he's simply someone who made money by taking advantage of this opportunity. (A different proposition than, say, getting rich selling the opportunity, which is most certainly the case here). In the endorsement, available as a podcast on the iTunes store, Dr. Laura introduces Dahl as someone who made "millions of dollars in this business." Which is sort of like saying that Dave Thomas made his fortune selling hamburgers, so you should seriously consider taking that job at the Wendy’s on Baum Boulevard.

‘If this opportunity is so great,’ he continued, "what’s there to hide?"

Discovering the source of Dahl’s wealth — and, it follows, the company behind Income At Home — is as easy as performing a Google search for Dahl’s name. Yet Barron Hansen learned that the person trying to sell him on the biz opp (generously designated his "mentor," but merely an Income At Home participant who had purchased his name and contact info) carefully avoided naming the mysterious, billion-dollar company behind all the success stories. In fact, after receiving his disappointing marketing product, Hansen had taken a follow-up call precisely to pose this question.

"If it is such [an] incredible opportunity," he asked, "then why is it so difficult to get you to simply tell me who the big company is that I could ultimately be working for?"

The operator responded, lamely: "Is that all you are interested in right now?"

"Pretty much," Hansen replied. He’d paid the money, read the sales booklet, sat through the DVD, and dealt with a "mentor" who couldn’t even be bothered to make her appointment — finally having another sales rep make the call. And he still didn’t know anything about the company behind Income At Home. He wasn’t asking about Centurion — who sold the biz opps — he wanted to know which multi-billion dollar company they were selling relationships with.

‘If this business opportunity is so great,’ he continued, "what’s there to hide?"

After more prodding, she finally offered a name. To his surprise, it was one he’d heard many times before.

"It’s Herbalife," she said.


UPDATE: Hours after this story was published, Income At Home scrubbed Herbalife from its website. The footer on the biz op site changed magically from "an online method of operating an Herbalife International distributorship" to "an online method of operating a Vemma independent distributorship."

It's embarrassing how little searching it takes to discover that Vemma is basically Herbalife without all the negative media attention from hedge fund managers and federal investigative agencies. Income At Home, for that matter, is not the first biz op brand to flee Herbalife in the wake of recent pyramid scheme accusations. Anthony Powell, a former Herbalife President's Team member, jumped ship in January to the same company.

This should tell you a couple things: First, Herbalife is collectively very pissed that Income At Home is being so flagrantly outed as a pyramid scheme. Second, Herbalife is just part of a much larger point here — namely, that multilevel marketing companies, no matter how legitimate they may seem, often do little other than enable these sketchy biz ops designed to con people out of hard-earned money. Keep that in mind as this story moves forward.  Read the entire story at The Verge.

Bottom Line …

The best advice that can be given comes from the Better Business Bureau. “Investigate BEFORE You Invest.”  As for seemingly credible television and radio hosts that appear to introduce or endorse the product, it appears that they are merely paid endorsers and have little or no credibility when pinching products.  Forewarned is Forearmed.

-- steve

Interesting Links …

Income At Home Exposed

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS