Suspected pyramid scheme targets young people

Success, wealth, luxury and world travel. These are just a few examples of what is said to await those who sign up for the IM Academy. Aimed at young people, the concept has spread to Skellefteå - but authorities in some ten countries warn it may be a scam.

The man in the video claims that he is in Dubai and that he can travel anywhere thanks to his earnings from IM Academy.

The man in the video claims that he is in Dubai and that he can travel anywhere thanks to his earnings from IM Academy.

Foto: Skärmdump Youtube

Skellefteå2023-10-23 14:00

A young man sits alone on a balcony. The sky is pitch black, and several skyscrapers loom behind him in the distance. In front of him is a laptop with a built-in webcam. The man presses the record button and begins:

– All right, all right, first of all, I just want to welcome everyone. Whether you got this video from a friend or someone you contacted privately, it doesn't really matter, he begins briskly.

The man in the video claims that he is in Dubai and that he can travel anywhere thanks to his earnings from IM Academy.

The clip the man is recording is a recruitment video for a group called "Retired Young." He energetically explains how joining the group can lead to a whole new luxurious lifestyle.

– This is exactly what I was shown eight months ago. Now, seven months later, I'm here in Dubai, living off my cell phone full time, and I can travel whenever I want, he says, gesturing to indicate that he is abroad.

For 30 minutes, the man talks about the various ways users can make money. It turns out that Retired Young is a group that is part of a larger concept called "IM Mastery Academy" or simply "IM Academy". It is not registered in Sweden, either as a company or as an association.

The more people you recruit, the more money you are supposed to get. If you are really good, the man claims, you can earn over two million Swedish kronor per week. Where the money comes from is unclear.

Much of the focus is on the opportunity to buy online courses in forex trading. The courses are expensive; first, there is an initial fee of either 1,600 or 2,700 kronor - and then there is an almost equal monthly fee. Courses are also offered in areas such as cryptocurrency, social media, and e-commerce.

This charts claims to represent how a participant could potentially earn $187,000, which is equivalent to two million Swedish kronor, per week.

When you buy a forex trading course, you get access to a number of pre-recorded video clips. In addition, you are promised a "personal coach" and it is claimed that you will have access to various tools to help you scan the market.

Forex trading itself is not illegal, but it can be risky. IM Academy does not emphasize the risk of potentially losing your money. Furthermore, it is clear that the concept is aimed at young people. The man in the video states that he was born in 2004 and dropped out of high school to pursue the concept wholeheartedly.

– I'm not selling dreams, don't get me wrong. I'm just telling you what's possible! I am living proof, he says.

On the Instagram account "Retired Young Official," success, community, and a luxurious lifestyle are showcased.

Participants are also encouraged to invest in the concept for a long time - month after month, year after year. If you buy a "travel package" (initial fee: 1,600 kronor), you get "crazy discounts" on various trips.

– Me and a friend found a trip to Bali with a 90 percent discount. Do you have any idea how crazy that is? the man exclaims.

If you continue to pay every month for ten years, the man claims, you will be offered a "free" trip anywhere in the world. By that time, however, you will have effectively spent more than 165,000 kronor on the trip.

– I want you to really thank the person who sent you this video and gave you this opportunity. What other friend has given you the opportunity to earn several million kronor? the man concludes.

"Learn to navigate the future with confidence," IM Academy writes on its website.

However, not everyone is equally enthusiastic about the concept. In fact, authorities in several countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Peru and Colombia, have issued warnings about IM Academy.

In Belgium, they have gone a step further and banned the company outright. The reason given for the ban is that IM Academy has "characteristics typical of a pyramid scheme". In Poland, several IM Academy representatives have also been fined for pyramid scheme activities.

The company is also on the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority's warning list. However, the FSA did not conduct its own investigation, but issued its warning in conjunction with the Luxembourg supervisory authority. This was confirmed by Karin Franck, press secretary at the Financial Supervisory Authority.

Karin Franck, press secretary at the Financial Supervisory Authority.

– Many people are attracted to social media ads that promise quick money with minimal investment. We cannot comment on individual cases, but as a general guideline, we advise consumers to be skeptical of any offers that promise very high returns in any form. Investments that sound too good to be true often are and can turn out to be worthless, says Franck.

She continues:

– Our basic recommendation is to invest in securities only through companies listed in our company register and never through companies on the warning list, whether the warning is issued by FI or by a supervisory authority in another country.

Several media, both in Sweden and abroad, have investigated IM Academy in recent years. In February this year, Svenska Dagbladet reported that the company had its origins in a US fraud scheme. The American founder, Christopher Terry, has a long history of dubious business activities, according to SvD. In 2018, IM Academy's predecessor, known as "Imarkets live," was fined $150,000 in the United States. The company has changed its name, but suspicions that it's a pyramid scheme persist.

Trader, investor, philanthropist. That's how IM Academy's CEO Christopher Terry is presented on the company's own website.

In the spring, reporters from the P4 Sjuhärad show visited several local IM Academy meetings undercover. The meetings were described as "cult-like". Young people spoke of feeling cheated out of their money and of broken friendships.

Now the concept has spread to Skellefteå. According to reports in Norran, several high school students have joined. And a few weeks ago, the police warned that young people in the county had been approached to join concepts that could involve pyramid schemes or other types of investment fraud.

P4's Sjuhärad went undercover at an IM Academy meeting.

Ulrica Heldebro is the acting group leader of the Västerbotten police fraud unit. She does not want to comment specifically on IM Academy, but points out that young people are particularly vulnerable to pyramid schemes and other scams.

– If someone offers 5,000 kronor to a young person who is studying and doesn't have a job. That's a lot of money. It can cause significant damage, for example, if they are tricked into taking out loans to find that money. In the worst case, they can 'ruin' their entire future by believing they will become rich and be able to travel anywhere, they want, she says.

The people recruiting for such schemes are often young people themselves, she notes. They wear stylish clothes and adopt luxurious lifestyles.

In the case of IM Academy, participants must pay an initial fee in the form of an educational package. Heldebro again emphasizes that she does not want to comment on specific cases, but notes that this is often the approach when it comes to pyramid schemes.

– It starts with buying a package, often marketed as gold, silver, or bronze. If you buy the more expensive options, they say you can earn more. However, the requirements get higher because you have to recruit more friends to keep the concept afloat.

– Often, you can actually get a small amount of money at first. Then you become convinced that it works, invest more money, and recruit more people. But eventually it all collapses and the money disappears, she says.

What should you look for before investing money?

– There are several warning signs, such as the scheme being presented as a unique opportunity. You're encouraged to 'get in at the beginning' because that's when the 'big profits' are made. It's also common that you don't get much information and have to attend a meeting or listen to a presentation to find out what it's all about. In addition, they often lure you with the promise of passive income. You don't have to do anything, just tell your friends.

Why is a concept like IM Academy allowed to exist in Sweden, given all the warnings from the authorities?

– It's difficult to see how you can stop such a company. First we need a report from a victim, and then the problem is: 'what were you really promised?' Can you prove that you were promised a million kronor, or was it just said that you could 'potentially' earn that much? Is that fraud? It's hard to prove.

– If we were to join ourselves, we would probably be put in contact with someone in the middle of the pyramid. But they're just as fooled and deluded as everyone else; it's the mastermind we want. And where is that person? Probably somewhere abroad.

Does it become more difficult when an investigation leads abroad?

– Yes, it does. Definitely.

Can't you start your own investigation?

– We haven't received any concrete information that would allow us to open a criminal investigation at this time. The best we can do is work on crime prevention and inform people about the risks, says Heldebro.

In the terms of use on IM Academy's website, it states that members are not allowed to speak to the media without written permission from a specific department.

Norran has tried to contact IM Academy several times. The company did not respond. There is no clear information on the company's website about who is responsible, or the identities of the people behind the concept. No phone numbers are provided. The only means of contact is an email address, but it is unclear who maintains it.

Norran has also made repeated attempts to reach the founder, Christopher Terry, both through his own website and social media, but he has not responded.

Efforts to contact the man who recorded the recruitment video have also been unsuccessful.

NEXT PART: Mothers whose sons have joined IM Academy share their concerns.

Pyramid schemes

A pyramid scheme recruits members with promises of high returns for investing money and encourages them to recruit others. It's unsustainable, focuses on recruitment, and lacks a genuine product or service. Participants risk losing money, and it's illegal in many countries, including the US.

Do you have any experiences with IM Academy? Get in touch with us at

Warning signs

Signs of a pyramid scheme:

Do you have to buy an educational package to join, and recruit new participants or sell educational packages to new customers?

Are you promised the opportunity to earn money without having to do anything?

Is it marketed as a unique opportunity to join, with claims that those who join at the beginning make significant profits?

You're not provided with details about the operation immediately and are required to attend a specific meeting.

Source: Spelinspektionen