In the light of the current Profitable Sunrise saga, I decided today to dig through Google’s search data to see what’s happening to Imperia Invest IBC and other ponzi schemes that have been shut down in recent years.
To my surprise, nearly three years after its demise, a whole lot of people are still searching for information about Imperia Invest IBC, even more so than Profitable Sunrise… the latest ponzi scheme to catch attention of the authorities.
Who are these people? And why are there so many of them still searching for information about Imperia Invest IBC? Are these swindled investors who are still hoping to get their lost moneys back? Or are they people who have recently heard of Imperia Invest’s giant financial fraud and looking for the details?
I have no answers for the former group. But for the later category of people who have only recently heard about Imperia Invest IBC and are busy googling for more information, here’s a quick run-down of this ponzi scheme that’s apparently still fresh on many people’s minds.
The Imperia Invest IBC Ponzi Scheme
According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) investigations, more than 14,000 investors were defrauded worldwide by Imperia Invest IBC to the tune of over US$7 million. Among these victims were thousands of deaf investors in the United States. Even an SEC employee was an ‘investor’ in this ponzi scheme, according to the SEC’s own investigations (full report liked below).
How did Imperia Invest operate? What was their pitch, and how did they manage to lure so many people into their fraudulent scheme?
The image below is a screen grab of Imperia Invest IBC website’s “Road to Success” page, detailing how the scheme worked. Imperia Invest IBC operated under the website domain name www.imperiainvest.net, but the original website is now defunct, and the domain is used by someone else for a different purpose. The screenshot below is what “Road to Success” page looked like on 11th June, 2010 (courtesy the Internet Archives’ Way Back Machine).
Here’s is how the scheme worked (or was supposed to have worked), in a nutshell:
- Investors (or more appropriately, “members”) opened an account for free, and then filed a TEP Application, with a $50 application fee. TEP stands for Traded Endowment Policy, and it’s the British equivalent of Viatical settlement in the US.
- After 15 days, the member’s account would be credited with US$80,000. This is not money that could be withdraw though. It’s just paper money sitting in there. This money was supposedly a loan secured from a never-disclosed foreign bank by Imperia Invest IBC on behalf of the member.
- Imperia promised to use this loan to purchase TEPs on behalf of the member. Imperia then claims to trade the TEPs in order to generate guaranteed returns sufficient to pay investors returns of 1.2% per day.
- After 6 months, the TEP would expire, trading activities would be rounded up, and members would receive yields according to the schedule above.
- Of course, members could purchase multiple TEP Applications ($50 each), and huge multi-level referral commissions were promised to members who could lure their friends and family into the program
- Imperia also required that investors purchase a Visa debit card to access their investment proceeds. Imperia charged customers a fee to purchase the Visa debit card ranging from $145 to $450.
Despite the many glaring red signs, this simple scheme got more than 14,000 people to pull in millions of dollars. These moneys came in the form of the $50 TEP Application fees and purchases of Visa Debit Cards. Even an SEC employee was an ‘investor’ in this ponzi scheme, according to the SEC’s own investigations.
But rather than follow through with its promise (assuming the promise made any sense at all), once Imperia received funds from Investors, the fraudsters then transferred the money to foreign bank accounts in Cyprus and New Zealand. And according to the SEC’s report, there’s no evidence that anyone received a single cent from Imperia.
Imperia Invest IBC operated under the website domain name www.imperiainvest.net. Until late 2009, this entity claimed to be located in the Bahamas. However, the Bahamian address listed by Imperia was fictitious, according to the SEC’s investigations. After this came to light, Imperia then claimed to be located in Vanuatu. This also turned out to be fictitious, and neither Imperia nor its securities were ever registered with or licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States or anywhere else in the world.
Were you an investor in Imperia Invest IBC’s scheme? Do you know anyone who lost money in this scheme? Why do you think so many people fall for such fraud? Please share your thoughts with us below.