If you’re here because you’ve sat through that convincing presentation, had the contract presented to you, and you’re not sure what to do, then get up and get out. Don’t sign it, it’s an outright scam.
So to explain this whole crazy situation, let’s rewind. I saw this advertisement on Gumtree.sg a few days ago while looking for part time job.
Of course, I was already into the motion of flagging interesting jobs and contacting the relevant people for interview. As such, I didn’t really pay close attention to the advertisement nor the chat that followed with this Jeremy guy.
I really didn’t think much at this point although I really should have. Usually at this point they would explain more about the job – given the astounding lack of details, but I didn’t seemed to notice. It’s also interesting to note how he mentioned “interview/briefing” and I just went like “yeah that seems about right”.
Yup so Wcega Tower. Most of you are probably wondering where that is but I wasn’t unfamiliar with that place. My parents used to own a warehouse in Wcega Plaza – an extension of Wcega Tower. From my understanding, the complex houses businesses that usually deal with logistics, distribution and transport. Wcega Plaza was where you’d see forklifts dashing around busily and where you’ll hear the angry buzz of saw against metal tracks. Wcega Tower was where the corporate part of the business comes in. So, at this point I was kind of confused because from my understanding, there shouldn’t be a tuition center at Wcega Tower. But whatever right? There’s a couple of bungalows directly opposite the complex so I guess it’s possible?
Fast forward to today. The meeting was scheduled at 2pm so I started to make my way there from JE. I thought it was gonna take at most half an hour since it’s a 15 minutes drive from my house. Nope. It took me one transfer, 40 minutes of commute and 10 minutes of walking. I gotta say this place is way more accessible via private transport than it is public. Also, Wcega Tower was way more torn down than I remembered it to be. The stairs leading up to the building was under construction and there’s missing tiling on the landing of certain floors as people stepped out from the lift. Oh well I mean you can’t fault the place for getting a facelift can I? Nonetheless, this building can be quite aesthetic from certain angles.
I didn’t really know what to expect. No seriously, why didn’t I think about this more thoroughly? I stepped out of the lift and out another door and this is what I saw. Ok so I actually walked out of the wrong door and made a HUGE loop to find Trust Tutors. That’s when I messaged Jeremy and he just replied with okay. I rang the doorbell and a lady attended to me. She handed me a particulars form and I filled it up quickly and was immediately ushered into a room. Meanwhile I hadn’t seen a guy in the whole office and I’m wondering where this Jeremy was. The room reeked of pristine white. The music was ill-fitting. The camera was suspicious. Wait what? You read right. There was a camera at the top left corner of the room. But I naively dismissed it as perhaps an attempt to conceal trade secret? Some kind of non-disclosure agreement? It didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t give away trade secrets that easily and I would have to sign one of those to take effect.
After a considerable wait, the receptionist who handed us the form earlier had came in and gave the 7 of us a document and a cup of water each. I read through it. There was things like tutor fees in Singapore and this peculiar newspaper article from the early 2000s with zero relevance. While deciding to continue reading the rest of the file, this tall and skinny man walked in. He held his head up high with confidence, energy and a friendliness that I would only describe as excessive. With a charismatic introduction and handshake, he handed out his name card, got to know our names and begun his presentation.
I’ll try to summarise the whole presentation.
- There are super tutors who are millionaires.
- The tuition industry is worth more than a billion.
- There’s consistent demand for tuition.
- You can work from home and it’s flexible.
- Our (Trust Tuition) selling point is an online platform that houses all the past year papers and has an interactive space that allows students to practice online via e-learning. (Oddly enough I hadn’t seen a single Lit/Hist/Geog paper throughout his scrolling.)
- We will be launching an app version soon.
- Here is our company’s website and under “find a tutor” guess what? We’ve added your name!! We will advertise you as a regional coordinator so that people will look for you to match them with tutors! (I am surprised they hadn’t taken down my name yet.)
Oh wait, there’s more.
- We can print out flyers for you to distribute.
- We can print name cards for you.
- We can make ID to show that you’re a certified tuition coordinator. (No course can be certified? I should make one so I can be a certified fitness instructor or certified doctor or something then I wouldn’t be looking for part time.)
- We’ll teach you how to advertise.
- Your income depends on you. The harder you work the richer you are.
- You earn 50% commission for the first month. He claimed that the average tuition cost per month is $400. You’ll get $200 the first month.
- Every subsequent month you’ll earn $7 for each student who is continuing their tuition for which the total cost of the tuition fee is <$250.
- Every subsequent month you’ll earn $8.25 for each student who is continuing their tuition for which the total cost of the tuition fee is around $300.
- That amount of “passive income” (another big red flag) increases based on the tuition fee/month.
- He surveyed us and established that on average you’ll reach out to 10 potential tutees per day. And of this 10, maybe 3-4 would consider and conservatively 1 would accept.
- This would mean that 31days x 1 new tutee x average $200 = $6200 a month. (Something like this ah. My math not good.)
- Then he added in the “passive income” for month 2. $6200 a month from new tutees + (31 tutees from month 1 x $7) = $6417 (Okay I swear they blew up the numbers because I remember him saying a figure of 10k plus but you get the idea.)
- Also, getting others to join this scheme will have 10/30% commision. 10% if you direct them to Trust Tutors and 30% if you manage to get them to sign. Don’t really remember how this works.
That’s roughly what he went through. He presented them in a way that seemed logical and believable. He cites sources from the Straits Times about the worth of the tuition industry and showed records of tuition coordinators who has 1k+ registered tutees under them which meant a figure of at least $7k+ in passive income per month. Then came the shocker. I’d expected it to be that tuition coordinators paid commision of their earnings to the company but the moment he introduced a one-time fee, only one thing came to mind: Pyramid Scheme. It was something like this:
|Normal Price||50% discount today||50% discount today by installments|
What stood out to me was how I felt like he was selling me netflix or spotify subscription. That really rang an alarm. He gave us contracts to sign while showing us this huge file of contracts signed previously. I excused myself for a moment, saying I needed some time to think it over and quickly punched the following into google: Trust tuition coordinator pyramid scheme. Lo and behold I found this: https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/bfj8pt/psa_eh_do_yall_know_that_tuition_agencies_can/
I quickly scanned through it and knew what I had to do. I literally told him I don’t make decisions on the spot (thanks reddit user nthock) and so I was gonna run it through my parents. I left and that was that. Instead of the 1hr 30mins, I sat through a 2hrs 10mins. No wonder he kept mentioning “Don’t worry you won’t waste your time”. Haha the irony is that it’s making me worry and the only way I could describe the trip was a waste of time.
I reached home and did some digging. There’s apparently a review website that has an extensive compilation of the malpractices of Trust Tuition. https://dishonest.biz/forum/index.php?topic=223.0
Unfortunately, although it’s on the first page of google search results, it’s hidden near the bottom of the page where normal clients wouldn’t visit.
I’ve provided the links above but it’s really quite disheartening to read about hard working Singaporeans being forced into a position whereby they either lose that $4k+/$2k+ that they had “invested” or they kill every shred of moral and dignity left and attempt to scam others into this scheme. Poor Jeremy, he probably never meant it or wanted to scam me but he was left with no choice.
This experience has left me quite enraged. I’m astonished that the authorities aren’t doing anything about this even though they’re aware. This has been happening since 2013 and I could only imagine the damages that it has caused. I’m no lawyer but this doesn’t seemed legal. Again, I’m no lawyer so I investigated.
Using the legal skills I’ve obtained during my stint in the JC law program, I hit that command + T and searched statutes singapore. Typed mlm into the search bar and we have a winner: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/MLMPSPA1973. First result some more.
|MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING AND PYRAMID SELLING (PROHIBITION) ACT (CHAPTER 190)|
This is wrong on so many levels. Apart from the fact that Trust Tutors is in fact a multi level marketing scheme that’s clearly prohibited, it forces people to commit infringements of the law. That does not sit well with me. How can a company not just infringe the law but also put a chokehold on people, having encouraged them to break the law as well. Thir defence is probably “they willingly signed it” and show the recording of them being tricked into signing. The below is one of the subsection of the law that a VICTIM will inevitably unwillingly infringe.
|3.—(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to promote or participate in a multi-level marketing scheme or arrangement or a pyramid selling scheme or arrangement or to hold out that he is promoting or participating in such a scheme or arrangement.|
|(2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $200,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.|
So at this point I’m like okay I’ve wasted an afternoon on the damned “interview” and I’ve spent my whole night writing this blog so that hopefully no one else falls for this. Yet somehow it doesn’t feel like there’s closure. So I messaged this Jeremey to find out more. No censorship.
I’m quite at a lost for words. “Are you going to stop all of them one by one?” That’s the same as saying “If everyone else is doing evil why can’t I?” And that’s the problem. Trust Tutors manipulate victims into perpetrators. They scam a person and force them to scam others, else fortieting that $2k. In such a precarious position, what would you do? Take the loss of $2k or be selfish and drag others into the scheme and create a cycle of perpetual victims?
Honestly, it’s really not up to me to decide what is the right thing Jeremy – or all the other Jeremys – should have done. But I think as a society, Singapore must condone such brazen infringement of legal boundaries. Laws are set for a reason and if someone breaks it, they should suffer the consequences. I don’t know how Trust Tutor has been evading the law but if an action or behaviour is obviously wrong and does harm to society then it shouldn’t be allowed. If there are loopholes, they should be closed. If there are ill-defined parameters within the law, they should be defined. If they are doing wrong, they should be corrected. We can’t just close one eye to the injustice that’s affecting people’s livelihoods.
Please share this so that your friends and family will not fall victim to Trust Tuition.