EDITORIAL: On Club Asteria, FxPowerPro And DisasterClub — And What The U.S. State Department Could Do To Contain The Danger Posed By The Talk Gold Ponzi And Criminals’ Forum And Others Of Its Ilk Worldwide

Let’s start with the chaos in Egypt this week. Protesters have streamed into the streets to demand that President Hosni Mubarak step down after three decades of autocratic rule. The government initially reacted by shutting down the Internet. As tensions rose, protesters, activists and journalists covering the events were beaten. Some of the protesters were killed.

When a government shuts down the Internet and starts chilling its people and journalists, it’s for a reason: It does not want the world to witness events, and it wants journalists to know they’ll pay a price for trying to report anything other than the government line to the masses. State-run TV beamed images of tranquility, not images of unrest. When the chaos became impossible to sanitize or ignore, the government blamed events on impure thinkers and their media lackeys, planting the seed that “foreign agendas” were at work.

It was the cue the loyalists needed to start threatening journalists with death by beheading. Fearing for their safety, the journalists abandoned the immediate turf — but not the story. They started reporting from “undisclosed locations.” The word was still getting out, just not the pictures in the degree desired.

The immediate events in Egypt, of course, are much more serious than, say, the immediate events at the TalkGold Ponzi scheme and criminals’ forum. Even so, some of the parallels are striking.

The Egyptian government, for example, is trying to control the message. So is the TalkGold forum, which wants the Ponzi shills and criminals who’ve involved the worldwide masses in one catastrophic fraud scheme after another to know they have a safe haven. TalkGold also wants the critics to know the Mods regard them as naysayers and trolls who can be “banned” without notice, rather like the Mubarak regime regards those muckraking reporters and their “foreign agendas.”

It won’t work at TalkGold for the same reason it won’t work in Egypt: People still have eyes and ears and the ability to be discerning. There may be only one Tahrir Square in central Cairo to control, but “undisclosed locations,” voices, cell phones, cameras and reporters’ pads and tape recorders are in plentiful supply. They can’t be controlled.

Egypt’s bid to control the message has resulted in a catastrophic PR problem on top of a political crisis. Meanwhile, TalkGold’s ineptitude, ham-handedness and arrogance has set the stage for its own PR disaster. You can read about it on RealScam.com, which sides with the afflicted masses, not the people who’d afflict the masses.

While state-run TV in Egypt is airbrushing the dangers of autocratic rule and beaming images of tranquility as the country’s inhabitants try to figure out how they’ll get by for yet-another year on the wages of poverty, TalkGold is airbrushing the economic and security dangers of viral criminality and seeking to tranquilize (and recruit) the masses by using flowery language and even flattery to tell them that opening an account with an offshore payment processor and sending money to any one of hundreds of schemes is their ticket out of the ranks of hopelessness.

Poster “Ken Russo,” for example, would have the people of Egypt — and the poverty-stricken people of the United States and other countries  — know that the latest “program” he is promoting is one of the “best” he has ever seen.

One of “Ken Russo’s” current favorites is Club Asteria, which claims to “care” and contends that its “100,000 PLUS MEMBERS CAN’T BE WRONG.” Meanwhile, Club Asteria further claims to “Empower our Members” and to “help expatriates and immigrants to become more successful in their personal and professional lives and enable them to send money home to their loved ones.”

Tugging at heartstrings, Club Asteria further claims that “[t]hrough our philanthropic efforts we make an immediate difference for struggling individuals, families and communities by focusing on improving nutrition, housing, health care and education.”

That performing legitimate due diligence on Club Asteria is virtually impossible doesn’t seem to compute with “Ken Russo” and other affiliates. The mere fact the “program” is being promoted on TalkGold is reason enough to avoid it. Any business the company generates from TalkGold likely is radioactive. Club Asteria, for example, could find itself in possession of money that has flowed from fraud scheme to fraud scheme. Even if Club Asteria were legitimate, the fact it is being promoted on TalkGold puts it at one of the principal intersections of crime and fraud.

About the only good thing about the Internet being down in Egypt this week while its people took to the streets was that “Ken Russo” and his fellow promoters couldn’t sell Club Asteria and other highly questionable “programs” to the disaffected Egyptian masses. (On a side note, one of the companies named in a Forex lawsuit by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission(CFTC)  just days ago announced on TalkGold that the shutdown of the Internet in Egypt had disrupted its ability to interact with Egyptian clients and other clients in the region. A poster purporting to represent FXOpen — under an underlined  heading of “Arabic Live Chat Disruption” — noted that “[o]ur hopes and prayers go out to the Egyptian people.”)

And even as the Egyptian government is inciting violence against journalists — to the degree that the U.S. Department of State issued a special statement on the matter — the TalkGold forum is banning posters who speak ill of Ponzi and fraud schemes that are gathering untold sums of money, channeling cash to some of the darkest corners of the Internet and keeping people in financial bondage.

Here is an idea for the Department of State and Secretary Hillary Clinton: Warn Americans — and other peoples of the world — about sites such as TalkGold. Mention them at a Congressional hearing. Instruct U.S. diplomats the world over to inform their host governments about the security and economic dangers posed by TalkGold and a sea of similar sites. Tell elected officials that the State Department is serious about monitoring sites that are keeping people in human bondage by spreading financial misery globally. Define Talk Gold as a global pariah, an enterprise without a state that would be proud to claim it. Inform the world regularly that the only form of diplomacy on TalkGold is robbery without a gun.

TalkGold has been named repeatedly in court filings that identify it as a place from which fraud schemes are openly pushed. The ink on recent CFTC lawsuits that identify two of TalkGold’s paid Forex advertisers as the purveyors of unregistered offerings targeted at U.S. citizens is barely dry, and yet the unabashed cheerleading continues.

The alleged AdSurfDaily Ponzi scheme, which also was pushed from TalkGold, gathered at least $110 million. It caught the attention of the U.S. Secret Service and resulted in civil and criminal probes that could put people in prison for decades, and yet the unabashed cheerleading continues.

All the autosurfs prominently touted on TalkGold are just recycled forms of ASD, which itself allegedly was a recycled form of 12DailyPro, which the SEC smashed five years ago this month.

It’s the same thing with Pathway To Prosperity, yet-another alleged scheme promoted on TalkGold that gathered tens of millions of dollars and could put people in jail for decades. All of the HYIPs promoted on TalkGold are just recycled forms of Pathway to Prosperity, which was busted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Legisi, which was busted by the SEC after the U.S. Secret Service infiltrated its operations by using an undercover operative. The state of Michigan also used an undercover operative in the Legisi probe.

The best way to deal with TalkGold and similar sites is to tell the world that they promote global criminality and rank illicit profits above human rights and common human decency.

Like Egypt in its current state, TalkGold is not about freedom — financial or political. It is about the institutionalization of corruption. If TalkGold were an oncological hospital, its doctors would be cheerleading for the cancer to spread and its nurses would be rooting for the highest death rate because intervening to cure the disease and comfort the afflicted would be bad for institutional and personal profits.

A purported Forex program known as FxPowerPro currently has a 20-page thread on TalkGold. Among other things, FxPowerPro is claiming that “YOUR STABILITY IS OUR PURPOSE.” Its website appears to come from an editable script kit used by hundreds of sites globally, and it says it will accept any sum between $5 and $20,000. FxPowerPro proudly displays a link the the TalkGold forum.

A few days ago an eagle-eyed PP Blog reader passed along some information about yet-another incongruous program known as “Disaster Club.” Disaster Club appears to be a new wrinkle on cash-gifting schemes. It purports to arrange member-to-member “grants,” asking visitors if they’d like to turn a “One-Time $100 into $17,700.”

Bizarrely, Disaster Club uses a presentation by which it names four hypothetical members: “Job,” and “Cain, Abel and Eve.”

“After joining the Club you will receive the name of your assigned member, and each week on Monday you are to send a grant in the amount shown in the grant schedule directly to that assigned member,” Disaster Club says.

“Should you join the Club between Tuesday and Sunday, send your grant as soon as you receive your assigned name, do not wait until Monday,” Disaster Club coaxes. “Every grant thereafter will be sent according to the Monday schedule. To create a cash explosion from your home three members will each be given your name to send their $100 grants to ($100 X 3 = $300) and each stage you will keep the stated amount shown from the amount you received from the 3 members $100 + $100 + $100 = $300 you keep $50. Then according to the grant schedule shown, you are to send your grant directly to the same member (Job), and the same three members (Cain, Abel and Eve) will each send their grants directly to you.”

Disaster Club purports to be headquartered in Florida and claims to be a “club that allows like minded members to pool their resources together to help the hurting and homeless victims of any Disaster in any State, or even help others anywhere in the world.”

The “opportunity” does not appear to have its own thread at TalkGold yet, but there are plenty of disasters already waiting there for its readers. Just don’t expect to get a warm reception if you have a “foreign agenda” — you know, like those muckraking enemies of the Mubarak regime in Egypt.

Although it’s not likely you’ll be threatened with beheading at TalkGold, you might get deleted if you tangle with “Ken Russo” and others and challenge readers to use their heads for something other than a hat rack.

There is nothing decent about Talk Gold and its cancer-spreading cousins worldwide. Only the broadest public-awareness campaign can succeed against the threats they pose to the governments of the world and billions of Internet users globally — and the U.S. State Department could make a difference by describing the criminal forums as places from which human rights are set up to be trampled 24/7/365.

Any true diplomat from any country worldwide who spent so much as 15 minutes on TalkGold could see the danger to countries, governments and citizens worldwide. The world’s diplomatic corps are uniquely positioned to do something the world’s law-enforcement corps cannot do: be at all places at all times.

A sustained effort by the world’s diplomats to identify and monitor the fraud sites — and openly share the information with the people of the world — could go a long way toward containing a plague that only will mushroom into a catastrophe if left alone.

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6 Responses to “EDITORIAL: On Club Asteria, FxPowerPro And DisasterClub — And What The U.S. State Department Could Do To Contain The Danger Posed By The Talk Gold Ponzi And Criminals’ Forum And Others Of Its Ilk Worldwide”

  1. As a proud recipient of a ban at Talkgold, I applaud your excellent expose’ of therm and their agenda. The ONLY good thing seems to be that it makes it easier to identify a scam,i.e. anything listed there…!

  2. Excellent article as usual Patrick.

    I have to admit to being a bit torn about forums like TalkGold. On one hand they are facilitating and promoting schemes which I honestly wish law enforcement had the resources to shut down and press criminal charges against. On the other hand I help run an internet forum and am a firm and fervent supporter of free speech. It isn’t easy to draw the line between providing an open venue for conversation and holding a forum operator responsible for the conversations they allow.

    I say the above as someone who was banned from TalkGold for, and I quote:

    “.,..Mischievously manufacturing inflammatory opinions in an attempt to stir up disharmony and discord. Posting up a stream of off-topic drivel or being clumsily provocative..,.”

    Which in my case is a somewhat charming euphemism for pointing out that ponzi darling du jour Club-Asteria has insufficient outside revenue to be mathematically sustainable. If they are to be faulted for anything, and let’s face it they should be, it’s that they refuse to let the people willing to warn the newbies about the legitimate risks these programs present.

    There are online forums which cater to the discussion of how to cultivate and grow marijuana. While I’m sure they’re apt to discuss why they think that practice shouldn’t be illegal I rather doubt they spend much time pretending to each other that it isn’t illegal (in most jurisdictions). I have no problem what so ever with the fact that those forums exist and are allowed to. If it were in my power to do so I don’t think I’d close down TalkGold or similar forums. I can not clearly articulate the legal theory under which I’d penalize the owners and operators for such forums for allowing scams to be promoted while refusing to allow other forum members to present the facts that the promoters find decidedly inconvenient. But I’d love to see that happen.

  3. Hi Glim,

    First, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    I’ve never advocated for the forced closure of TalkGold and the others. I think the forums provide important investigative leads and also provide a laboratory of sorts for law enforcement to study. They also provide a glimpse into criminal psychology and the human heart. In many ways, the forums tell some of the most important stories of our times about greed, criminality and how fraud schemes creep across the Internet.

    Regardless, I would advocate for TalkGold and the others to be monitored by the various departments of state around the world. I think it’s inarguable that the forums pose a clear and present danger to the well-being of local, regional, national and international economies. I think they also pose an untenable security challenge that is not easily addressed.

    I think the U.S. State Department should specifically warn Americans about the forums, which constitute a “country” of sorts — a cyberbody that may not be easily definable geographically or politically. In that sense, the forums pose a danger to all the nations of the world.

    Who knows, for example, where Imperia Invest actually was operating from. Despite its obvious murkiness, it managed to defraud 14,000 people, including thousands of Americans with hearing impairments. The ramifications of that case alone are chilling. There may be thousands of Imperias operating globally.

    The State Department could issue warnings about the cyberbodies just as it would issue warnings to people who may contemplate traveling to a rogue nation or a nation that turns a blind eye to human rights.

    It’s possible that other nations would follow the lead of the U.S. State Department.

    You’re aware, of course, that some of of the Ponzi advocates have done things such as declaring virtual statehood on paper. Well, let the world treat them like rogue political states. An absence of an actual foorprint of nationhood doesn’t make the rogue cyberbodies any less dangerous.


  4. As my sainted mother used to say: “It’s all good fun, until somebody gets hurt”

    IM(very)HO, HYIP ponzi game forums are, and will continue to be allowed to operate right up until the minute it’s shown large scale criminal and/or terrorist money laundering and financing has taken place.

    When (and not IF) that happens, even the most lackadaisical politician/s will be forced into action, both against HYIPs in general and against the forums which facilitate them.

    IM(very)O All it will take is a slight change in political will and the HYIP ponzi scene, while still operating, will be unrecognizable from its’ current state.

    IMHO, the powers-that-bes’ hands MUST be close to being forced, if the amounts involved continue to climb.

    As Patrick has repeatedly pointed out NO modern economy can thrive, or, indeed, survive while being white-anted from within as is being done at the minute.

  5. I’ve never advocated for the forced closure of TalkGold and the others. I think the forums provide important investigative leads and also provide a laboratory of sorts for law enforcement to study. They also provide a glimpse into criminal psychology and the human heart. In many ways, the forums tell some of the most important stories of our times about greed, criminality and how fraud schemes creep across the Internet.

    The forums are an invaluable source of information for modern historians and mathematicians, who study the nature of evolving systems. The forums are an invaluable source of information for modern historians and mathematicians who study the nature of evolving systems.

    Epidemiologists who can do a lot to predict the spread of plague and other infectious illnesses in both plants and animals came under a great deal of criticisms when foot and mouth ravaged the UK a few years ago. Many of the epidemiologists predictions with that were wrong. How many past and present ones were right? I am sure that these people were correct in their predictions about the spread of “Dutch Elm Disease” in UK so out forests and woodlands have been re stocked.

    These forums definitely need some sort of policing and your comments are thought provoking. The legal authorities should play some part in this job but LittleRoundMan made a very good point on RealScam. The mainstream media have also got a responsibility for reporting news about cyberspace crime.

  6. Patrick:

    Great article as always. In regard to these forums, such as TG and MMG, one has to decide if they want to make it harder for these scams to get traction and steal millions by putting them out of business, or do you want to take these criminals down one-at-a-time? While you are taking a few down, thousands remain online stealing millions from people. If you want the snake dead, cut off its head.

    Yes they do provide a lot of information that help shut these scams, Ponzi’s and frauds down, BUT at what price? If you took down TG, MMG and some of the other major scam forums, it would cause a huge effect in the ability to steal millions for millions of people. It would be just as effective as taking down 80% of the scams they promote.

    Even if they did go down, there would be new ones to take their place, but it would take a long time to get the traction TG, MMG and others have now. It would also send a chill to the new ones that while they might get away with ir for a little while, they too could face the same fate as TG, MMG, etc., etc..

    So it is a dual-edged sword. Which is more important and which would do the most good?

    My problem is only partially fixed, but at least now I can post; I hope.