Why almost everything is a scam: The chain of trust that you need to break.

Handre van Heerden
6 min readJun 29, 2021


“However a man who was honest and clever was always, ALWAYS more difficult to scam than someone who was both dishonest and clever. Sincerity. It was so difficult , by definition, to fake.” — Brandon Sanderson

Anatomy of a scam.

Ponzi, Pyramid, The Nigerian prince, MLM, Advanced fee, Lottery or Sweepstake scams. They have this in common:

Someone lying and another party being lied to.

People possess the capability to detect such deception or simply do not trust uncredited strangers with their money. That is why the most successful scams utilise a second tier. They deceive someone who does trust them and this “middleman” approaches you, often oblivious to the fact that what they are pitching you is untruthful. This middleman is both a victim and an accomplice. Pyramid and MLM schemes require people to market their fabricated deceit to friends and family.

Shamelessly copied and poorly edited. I know, I know.

To put it differently: The scammer scams someone you know and you are coerced into the scam by that person, a person you know and trust. “I trust Nassim, you can believe him, he would not lie to me”. Little do you know that Nassim has been bamboozled and he is completely oblivious to the fact that he has been lied to or that he is lying to you. You then become the next Nassim and unwittingly spread these falsifications to your connections.

This chain of lies can go on indefinitely. Only the first person knowingly lied. Everyone else along the chain remains oblivious to what is going on. What makes this worse is the longer this chain becomes, the further removed the next victim is from the original scammer. More and more “credible” sources are stacking up for “Nassim” to reference. Ignorance is bliss. If the chain becomes long enough, everyone you know might think you are an idiot for not partaking in the scam because “everyone is doing it.”

I will now try to convince you that this phenomenon is not only seen in “Scams”, but is so widely spread through modern society that it influences everything you know.

Let me start with the lowest hanging fruit: Religion

Before you press the close button, keep in mind that what I am about to say may not be true for your religion, but it is certainly true for all other religions. All religions comprise different, contradicting viewpoints and beliefs, the overwhelming majority of them have to be utter nonsense. The world could not have been created by Jahweh and by (insert any other creationist belief’s god here). Just look at this list of thunder god’s. Not all of them can be the real thunder god, if there is one.

Let’s agree that 99.99% of religions and gods have been fabricated at some point by someone. What these religions preach is false. People believe these absurd theories because someone they deem trustworthy presented the information to them in a believable fashion. This person or “middleman”(Nassim) did not create the religion (in most cases). He believes these lies. Little do you know that Nassim has been deceived, furthermore he is oblivious to the fact that he is spreading lies to you.

In most religions this chain of lies has been going for thousands of years. Billions of people believe these lies. Any person alive today is already so far removed from the original scammer that the chain becomes almost impossible to break.

This same analogy can be applied to all spheres of society. Everywhere you look there are contradicting “expert” views. Take for instance the food and health industry. Eating too much meat will kill you. A carnivore diet is healthy. Vegetable oils are the healthiest form of fat. There is nothing more harmful to your health than vegetable oils. The vaccine will save society. The vaccine will kill you. At least half those claims are false. The same can be said for investment advice, career advice, environmental concerns, social sciences, economics, politics and the list goes on. Why are the proponents so convinced they are right? Maybe our friend Nassim has something to do with it. Have you been a Nassim?

We need to further dissect the scam to learn more about its anatomy. Let us focus on what is arguably the most devastating (or successful, depending on where you stand) strain of scam. The Pyramid scheme and its close relative, the Multi-level Marketing Scheme.

If you have been unfortunate enough to be part of such a scam, you would know the person right above you in the pyramid is called your “sponsor”. This person sits above you on the ladder because she joined the scheme before you did. When you have a question or problem, you have to speak to your sponsor. You can not speak directly to the Scammer. Your sponsor will then speak to their sponsor and so on until you receive an answer from “somewhere above”. This chain of sponsors is called your “Upline”. The Scammer enforces this mechanism for two reasons.

  1. The first reason is obvious. It works like this in a variety of institutions. When you have a Catholic query you cannot speak to the Pope. When you have a problem with your Tesla you don’t speak to Elon. They simply can’t speak to everyone involved every time. Fair enough.
  2. The Scammer does not know the answers to your questions (they are a fraud remember) and cannot keep up with all the lies flying around in the scheme. The Scammer is not the person you trusted in the first place (remember Nassim?) and you might see through his deceit. In other words: You are far down the chain and thus far removed from the original lies. He won’t let you get closer.

A side note: When you are not allowed to speak to the person in charge of an organisation, be very suspicious. This rule is similar to “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Most honest and successful people are friendly and open to interaction. Even CEO’s and leaders of large nations. If a person deems himself unapproachable, they are either hiding something or they are an asshole. Neither is someone you want to be involved with.

Scammers often host staged interactions in public where they do a panel discussion on social media or the like. The questions they answer are usually pre written and presented by actors (appointed by the scammer) as if they where members of the public. Scammers do this to create the illusion that they are approachable and knowledgable. They do not take real questions from the public (you) because they might not be able to answer them without exposing the scam. Scamming 101. In this link we see the POTUS using such tactics.

“All decision making is a balance of probabilities in the mind”

How can we be sure we are not being scammed?

By being aware of the chain of lies and Nassims you can drastically reduce the amount of bullshit you might be indoctrinated with throughout your life. Reasoning from first principles and using logic and deduction should help. When someone presents information to you, ask yourself: “Could this person be part of a chain of lies?” and, “am I about to be the next link in the chain?”.

If there are contradicting views out there, you are probably about to be chained.