An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.
Prequalified prospects, sales referrals, or genealogy lists, whatever name is used, MLM leads are the lifeblood of any MLM (multi-level marketing) business, and without a continuous supply, the network marketing distributor will go broke and have to close down their MLM business. The question most networkers ask is “where do I get the best possible MLM leads for little or no money?” Are they generated on the internet, bought from an MLM lead-generation company, worked in the local market or found among friends and family? The answer is easier than it may seem; all of the above.
The legal distinction between MLMs and traditional pyramid schemes has been characterized by many authorities as a legal fiction. Jurisdictions that retain a legal distinction between MLM pyramid businesses versus illegal pyramid schemes retain said distinction on two key distinguishing features: 1) that MLMs always encompass the sale of actual products/services, while traditional illegal pyramid schemes ordinarily do not (though sometimes they do), and 2) that climbing an MLM pyramid is overwhelmingly statistically improbable (especially to its highest participant levels) but not theoretically impossible, whereas climbing a traditional illegal pyramid scheme is both statistically and theoretically impossible.