Cagey Consumer

Tough News for TUFF

Toward Ultimate Financial Freedom (TUFF) is a "business opportunity" that requires participants to purchase a computer program. Purchasing the computer program entitles you to offer the computer program to others, thereby entitling you to receive profits from those sales.
You download the software. Run it. It asks for some personal information and assigns you a random sponsor. You send money to the sponsor. He sends you a code to enter into the program. This allows you to be part of the next sending. Then you send the software to others, they send money (to a randomly-selected previous participant), the sponsor sends them the secret code, they run the software, and send it to others, etc. There is also a program called SIMPLE TRACK that helps you track up to about 7,500 losers of the chain that you have fooled.
The promoters of this product claim it's not multi-level marketing, and in some cases, describe its superiority to a chain letter. While it may not violate the anti-pyramid statutes of every state, the random selection of the participant to receive the fee would likely cause this to be considered a lottery.

Additionally, under Federal law, pyramid schemes are prohibited based on rulings that find them to be unfair and deceptive practices. Thus, the Federal courts have broad discretion to determine what might be unfair or deceptive.

Although bona fide multi-level marketing programs will not be considered illegal by this criteria, chain letters and pyramid schemes are consistently considered illegal by Federal courts.

In evaluating an activity, the courts may look at such indications as:

  1. Was the product promoted as a way to become eligible for the business opportunity?
  2. What proportion of people purchased the product without acquiring the business opportunity?
  3. Can people take advantage of the business opportunity independently of purchasing the product?

If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, the likelihood is that the Federal courts will say it's a duck. In the event that the Federal courts decide that TUFF walks and talks like a chain letter or a pyramid scheme, they will then be required to apply the US Sentencing Guidelines for Fraud

So the Cagey Consumer advises you to save your money and stay out of jail by staying away from TUFF.

TUFF is usually posted on freeware and shareware boards under the name TUFFPACK.EXE. Here are a few TUFF sites, there are dozens more.

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Updated September 4, 1999