UPDATE 12/9/15: Toronto police arrested two Canadian men operating Banners Broker on fraud, false representations and pyramid scheme charges in connection with the company that was billed as an Internet advertising business. The men, Christopher George Smith, of Toronto, and Rajir Dixit, of Vancouver, netted more than $90 million from people worldwide and allegedly funneled the money into off-shore accounts, police said. The investigation into Banners Broker began in 2013 and involved several Canadian agencies and the FTC. Banners Broker website was shut down in 2014 and the company has gone into liquidation. What follows is TINA.org’s original investigation into the company.
Banners Broker International, Inc. (BBI) promises to give you “the tools to help you meet your financial and lifestyle goals.”
But TINA.org has recently received a number of complaints from readers about the company. Banners Broker, which began in 2010 and claimed to have 250,000 affiliates by the end of 2012, is owned by Canadians, based in Belize, and has a holding company in the Isle of Man. It operates in dozens of countries including the U.S., Canada, Portugal, and India, and trades in U.S. dollars. It promises a revolutionary way to earn revenue online, and encourages members to earn more money by signing up friends and family.
BBI packages can cost affiliates thousands of dollars but the company has claimed that affiliates can double their money with this program. But is Banners Broker running a legitimate business or an illegal pyramid scheme?
How it works
The company asserts that through its “Ad-Pub Combo Package” members advertise their business on numerous websites on the BBI network while, at the same time, they can earn advertising revenues as a publisher through “specialized and targeted publisher sites created by Banners Broker” and “generate revenue through a home-based business.” If you’re confused by this explanation, TINA.org is too, and that’s a warning sign — pyramid companies are masters of disguise, and one of their favorite ways to hide the true nature of their business is to bury the details of the business with confusing terminology.
Banners Broker CEO Chris Smith likes to say, “the future for Banners Broker is bright.” Smith may believe that but here are eleven things a Truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) investigation turned up about the company that we think you should know:
- Banners Broker International Ltd’s holding company in the Isle of Man was put into liquidation in March 2014. The company, whose only asset on the Isle of Man appears to be a $6-million bank account, did not contest the liquidation.
- In early 2013, Indian authorities in Goa froze the bank accounts of Banners Broker India Ltd and seized the company’s books, files, documents and hard disks based on allegations of economic offense involving “a huge sum of money.” BBI, claimed that the investigation resulted from “unfounded complaints…” and that it had moved its office from Goa to Bangalore.
- With no advance notice, BBI closed its offices in Ireland and terminated its Irish representative, Paul McCarthy, in late August 2013, according to Irish newspaper accounts. As many as 15,000 individuals had invested in the Banners Broker program in Ireland in 2013, according to some estimates. McCarthy had said at a 2012 recruitment meeting secretly filmed by a news reporter that people could quadruple their money with BBI, a claim he later denied making.
- The company currently has an F rating with the U.S. BBB. Of 15 complaints filed since March 2012, Banners Broker failed to respond to 13 of them.
- In Canada, Banners Broker was put on the New Brunswick Securities Commission’s Caution List in September 2012 because of its activity in other jurisdictions. The Commission stated that BBI is not registered to trade in securities or to provide investment advice in New Brunswick, and urged consumers to get informed about investment fraud.
- Beginning sometime in 2013, BBI affiliates began receiving their commissions late, received only partial commissions, or none at all. BBI admitted in November 2013 that “[t]here have been issues in the past and we acknowledge that the payouts have not been as regular as they should have been. We are working hard to remedy that and it is important to us that payments go out regularly and consistently.” (Emphasis added by BBI)
- BBI had been providing payouts using a company called Vector Card Services, LLC to its affiliates with prepaid MasterCards – a fact that some used to reject allegations that BBI is a pyramid scheme. However, in early 2013, MasterCard canceled its contract with BBI. Smith explained, “Unfortunately MasterCard has the option in their contract to cancel the contract any time. The email I received said that because of bad publicity surrounding Banner Brokers, they would not want to be associated with BB any longer.”
- After MasterCard canceled its contract, BBI introduced World eWallet in December 2013 as a payment processor for affiliates. Smith said: “This is one of the components on the road to recovery on the payout issue. Let me make this crystal clear, this does not mean that everyone will get paid on day one. I don’t want to over-excite, but I want to make you aware that this is the step to getting us back on track.”
- Former BBI Chief Operating Officer Rajiv Dixit is no stranger to working with companies accused of being pyramid schemes. Prior to his affiliation with BBI, Dixit worked for ICF World Homes, which was alleged to be a pyramid scheme and is no longer in operation. Dixit was quoted as saying, “I do believe ICF was not a pyramid, as I would not be involved with one.”
- Dixit and BBI have been engaged in some fishy business themselves. In a slight of hand, the Canadian company known as Bannersbroker Limited changed its name to Stellar Point Inc. in July 2012. BBI said that Stellar Point was “an independent firm who was contracted by Banners Broker to handle support, training and marketing for Banners Broker.” And who, you might ask was in charge of Stellar Point? None other than former COO of BBI, Rajiv Dixit, who was the CEO and President of Stellar Point Inc. BBI apparently ended its relationship with Stellar Point in August 2013 saying: “[o]n August 1, 2013, a decision was made at Banners Broker, in an attempt to further reduce the cost of running a support centre, to move the support to the head office in Belize. At this time, the contract with Stellar Point . . . was terminated . . ..” Dixit is now running his own think tank called The Dixit Consortium.
- The image of Smith shown in a Banners Broker marketing video is reportedly a stock photo and is inconsistent with other pictures of the young “math genius” behind the scheme.
If you want to file a complaint against Banners Broker in the U.S. you can contact the FTC and the SEC. More information about the firms overseeing the liquidation on the Isle of Man can be found here. You can also request a charge back from your credit card company if you paid for services you feel the company never rendered.
This story was updated several times, most recently on 9/30/16.