Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It’s also the greatest form of “scammery.” That’s why scammers are imitating a type of informal savings club known as a “sou sou” or “susu” to trick people into joining what amounts to an illegal pyramid scheme.
If you’ve never heard of the term “sou sou,” a quick internet search will tell you that it’s a rotating savings club with historic roots in West Africa and the Caribbean. It’s a savings arrangement between a small group of trusted people – usually family and friends – who regularly pay a fixed amount into a common fund and take turns getting paid out.
In a sou sou, you don’t earn interest, never get out more than you paid in, and there’s no reward for recruiting people to join. This way of saving is based on the honor system, and it is not without risk.
So, it’s not surprising that scammers are pitching fake sou sou savings clubs and opportunities like “The Circle Game,” “Blessing Loom,” “Money Board”. These kinds of illegal pyramid schemes are the exact opposite of a sou sou: They promise you’ll make more money than you put in and depend on recruiting new people to keep money flowing into the fund.
Like all other pyramids, once they run out of new recruits to bring into the club, the money dries up, leaving everyone waiting for their pay out holding the bag.
If you see a post or get a direct message on Instagram, Facebook, or other social media about one of these clubs, think twice and remember the warning signs. If the offer comes from a friend or family member, tell them about this scheme. And, if you’ve been contacted to join a fake sou sou, please tell us: ftc.gov/complaint. Your report can help us protect others from a scam.
Written by Karen Hobbs — Assistant Director, Division of Consumer and Business Education, US Federal Trade Commission