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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Mar.22: 2023:

#AceNewsDesk – Cash-strapped and unable to find a job in Papua New Guinea, university graduate Abraham Tamsen was looking for a way to earn some money, when his cousin sent him a link according to ABC News report

A young Papua New Guinean holds up a sheet of paper printed with the words golden sun
Some estimates put the number of Papua New Guineans who have lost money to the Golden Sun scheme in the tens of thousands. (Facebook: Golden Sun PNG)none

It took him to a website called Golden Sun, with a bright yellow interface and a few blank fields to fill in his personal details.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

All he had to do was sign up and pay a fee and then he could start earning money simply by watching 15-second clips of blockbuster movies and writing short, positive reviews – so he was told.

It cost Mr Tamsen 700 kina – about $350 – to join on “level D”, which was all he could afford.

He was confident he would make the money back quickly.

On Facebook, he had seen people claiming to have made huge profits in just a few weeks through Golden Sun.

He got straight to work reviewing movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

“I spent most of my time – almost like 80 or 90 per cent of my daily hours – on this.”Abraham Tamsen says he spent most of the day on the website.(Supplied: Abraham Tamsen)none

I thought it would benefit me,” he told ABC.

Mr Tamsen was linked up with a “regional manager” who went by the name “Michael Wiggins” and claimed to live in Sydney, Australia.

They chatted over the instant messaging app Telegram, but never via phone or video call.

Michael Wiggins gave advice to Mr Tamsen and other team members, encouraging them to sign their friends and family up to Golden Sun so they could all earn bonuses.

He told them Golden Sun was registered in the United Kingdom and had links to Universal Studios and other major movie production companies.

On Facebook, there were even claims that Tesla founder Elon Musk was an investor.

The ABC has contacted Universal Studios and Elon Musk for a response to the promoters’ claims but hasn’t received a response.

‘Everything went blank’

For a while, it was all going so well.

Mr Tamsen made two “withdrawals” from his Golden Sun account, which involved requesting that the points he earned from watching movies be converted into cash.

A few days later, the physical money landed in his bank account…………..But last week, he went to make a third withdrawal………….” Everything went blank,” he said.

“I can’t log into my account or even contact the regional managers because their account was deleted on Telegram.”Abraham Tamsen was looking for a way to earn some money. (Supplied: Abraham Tamsen)none

Signs of collapse

The Golden Sun website has gone offline and its managers’ chat messaging and social media accounts have disappeared. 

Mr Tamsen says he now believes the whole thing was an elaborate scam.

“I’m angry,” he said.

“But at the same time, I thought to myself ‘that was my mistake’. I made the choice to go for that. But anyway, I learned from that.”

Altogether, Mr Tamsen is down about 370 kina, or $185, which for him is a lot of money.

It’s no consolation, but the 25-year-old is not alone.Bougainville: President says writing on the wall for illegal money scheme

The affiliated Facebook groups have thousands of members and some locals have suggested the total number of participants could be in the tens of thousands…………..It’s big, everybody is talking about it,” said John Cox, an anthropologist from Melbourne University and expert on pyramid schemes in Papua New Guinea.

While there are no official figures on how many Papua New Guineans have been affected and how much money they have lost, it’s clear the Golden Sun scheme is widespread across the country.

A couple of weeks ago, Dr Cox was giving a guest lecture at the University of Papua New Guinea when a group of sceptical students came up to him asking about Golden Sun.

“And I said, ‘Where’s the money coming from? Are people being promised unrealistic returns, with no real explanation of how that money has been generated?'” Dr Cox said.

” It looks like a pyramid scheme to me.”

A pyramid scheme is a financial model in which members receive dividends from fees paid by new participants, rather than from the provision of any real product or service. 

When new participants stop signing up, the model collapses.People across PNG have been victims of the scheme. (Facebook: Golden Sun PNG)none

‘This is a local scam’

Golden Sun first appeared in Papua New Guinea around the beginning of this year and gained rapid popularity through social media.

Hundreds of posts across Facebook groups and pages boast about massive earnings made through the platform and instruct people on how to join.

For Joel Waiogri, it actually did reap rewards.

He paid 3,200 kina to join as a “C level” member in January this year, and estimates he’s made about 1,000 kina in profit.

But as of last week, he has also been unable to make withdrawals.

Mr Waiogri said his regional manager told members the issue was due to the weather affecting internet connectivity.

But he has also been told the payments are taking longer because the company is registered in the United Kingdom, and not in PNG.

Dr Cox believes the scheme doesn’t have overseas links.

“I think it’s pretty clear, this is a local scam,” he said.

A company called Golden Sun PNG Limited was registered on March 13 this year.

The ABC put questions to the company via email, but has not received a response.

Mr Waiogri is worried thousands of Papua New Guineans will lose money.

“I made profit,” he said.

“But I will be thinking about those people that signed up under my team.”

Fraud, forgery and outrage among banks

A series of documents of questionable authenticity circulating on social media have now prompted PNG’s major banks to release warnings about Golden Sun.

On Monday, the Bank of Papua New Guinea (BPNG) released a statement saying fraudulent documents had claimed the bank’s acting governor Elizabeth Genia was about to grant a financial trading licence to Golden Sun PNG Limited.

“The bank strongly informs the general public that such claim(s) are fraudulent and were never authorised by the bank or Ms Genia,” the statement says.

It warned citizens against investing money in illegal schemes.

BPNG is responsible for regulating banking and financial services in PNG, where pyramid schemes are outlawed.

The bank did not answer ABC’s detailed questions about regulatory action against Golden Sun.

The ABC has also contacted PNG’s police but has not received a response.The scheme is estimated to have cost PNG citizens millions of kina.(Wikipedia: Bim im Garten)none

The country’s other major bank, Bank of South Pacific (BSP), also released a statement last week saying it had no association with online investment scams.

It came after a document circulated on Facebook telling Golden Sun members to present identification at a BSP branch to receive a “bonus cheque” in lieu of payments.

“BSP Group maintains that it is not associated with such scam activities and will not be liable for any transactions with such individuals, groups or associations,” chief executive Mark Robinson said.

The bank said it had noticed a spike in demand for VISA Classic Debit Cards since Golden Sun appeared, and it was now implementing additional screening of new customers.

Millions lost to decades-long scams

Dr Cox said pyramid schemes weren’t new in Papua New Guinea.

Some have been operating for 25 years or more, bleeding millions of kina out of citizens.

“It is disheartening to see that this these kinds of scams just seem to keep rolling on and rolling on,” he said.

“I’d love to see more of these fraudsters getting caught and going to jail.

“But some of the longest running pyramid schemes in PNG are still going where the principles of those schemes, the promoters are at large and operating the same scam.”

Dr Cox said authorities were often too under-resourced to investigate.

While pyramid schemes aren’t a new phenomenon, in the past in PNG they have been based mostly on face-to-face relationships.

Nowadays, the internet is allowing them to proliferate online.

Amanda Watson, a research fellow at the Australian National University and expert in digital communication in PNG, said internet access had increased rapidly in PNG since 2012.

“These things can spread fairly rapidly through social media platforms,” she said.

But determining what is and isn’t real on the internet isn’t a challenge only in PNG.

Australians, for example, lose millions of dollars each year to online romance scams.

“People all around the world are struggling with a proliferation of things that might look quite authentic,” she said.

“If something seems to be too good to be true, or a quick way to earn money, I would encourage people to be suspicious about it.”


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