MLM vs Pyramid Schemes: How To Tell The Difference Between The Two

MLM vs Pyramid Schemes: How To Tell The Difference Between The Two

People often confuse MLM vs Pyramid Schemes, but they have clear distinctions. Multi Level Marketing is a legal business model that enables individuals to earn income by actively selling products. In contrast, Pyramid Schemes are illegal and cannot be sustained. Let’s explore the key differences between the two:

Network Marketing, also known as Multi-level Marketing, involves companies selling products directly to consumers through independent distributors. These distributors earn commissions from their own sales as well as from their recruits. MLM companies provide training and support to help distributors succeed in their businesses.

MLM companies generate revenue primarily from product sales, not from recruitment fees. They must offer genuine products or services and compensate distributors based on their sales performance, not the number of recruits they bring in.

The Direct Sales industry is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, ensuring that companies operate within legal and ethical boundaries. This industry empowers individuals to establish their own businesses and earn income based on their sales efforts

What Is a Pyramid Scheme?

A Pyramid Scheme is a dishonest business model where people are promised big profits by recruiting others. The structure looks like a pyramid, with those at the top benefiting while those at the bottom lose out.

These schemes lure people with promises of easy money, but you have to pay to join. Then you’re encouraged to recruit others to earn commissions, creating the pyramid shape.

This particular business model is illegal because they’re unsustainable and cause financial losses for most participants. They rely only on recruitment, without any real product or income generation.

Fraudulent structures such as these eventually collapse when new recruitment becomes impossible, leaving those at the bottom with losses. Since there’s no real product involved, most legal systems consider them illegal.

It is clear that Pyramid Schemes are frauds that promise big returns through recruitment but end up causing financial losses. Stay aware and avoid them at all costs.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between MLM vs Pyramid Schemes

Focus on Products and Services: one way to tell the difference between MLM vs Pyramid Schemes is that Multi-level marketing companies and pyramid schemes differ in their focus on products and services. Multi level Marketing companies sell directly to consumers, and distributors earn commissions from their sales and recruits.

Pyramid Schemes on the other hand, often lack tangible products or offer low-quality ones with inflated prices. They prioritize recruiting new members over selling products directly to consumers.

Emphasis on Recruitment: MLM and Pyramid Schemes approach recruitment differently. Both involve recruiting others, but their goals and emphasis vary.

In Multi level Marketing, recruitment aims to build a network of distributors who sell products. Distributors earn commissions from their sales and those made by their recruits.

Leadership in pyramid schemes heavily emphasize recruitment, aiming to attract new members who pay to join. Participants only earn money by recruiting others who pay similar fees.

Compensation Structure in MLM vs Pyramid Schemes

Another significant difference between MLM vs Pyramid Schemes is how they compensate their participants. MLM companies use legal compensation models that reward distributors based on sales volume and effort. Commissions can be earned from both personal sales and recruits.

On the other hand,  Pyramid Schemes focus more on recruiting new members rather than selling products or services. Participants are promised high returns for recruiting others, even though there is no legitimate product being sold. Their compensation structure is unsustainable and relies solely on recruits to continue.


Multi Level Marketing is a legal business model regulated by the FTC. It follows guidelines and offers real products. Distributors earn compensation based on sales and effort.

Pyramid Schemes, however, are illegal and can’t be sustained. They rely on recruiting more people, and when they collapse, participants often lose money. Authorities often shut them down due to their illegal nature.

Looking for a legitimate MLM company can be tough in the MLM vs Pyramid Schemes landscape. Many MLMs have gained notoriety for controversial practices, with some exposed as illegal pyramid schemes. To equip yourself for success in direct sales, click on the free E-book below. Fortunately, there are ways to identify legitimate MLMs:

  1. Focus on product sales: Legitimate MLMs prioritize selling products to consumers, not just relying on members recruiting new members for purchases.
  2. Check market saturation: Assess if the market is already flooded with the product you plan to sell.
  3. Research the company: Look into the company’s reputation, history, and any legal issues or controversies it may have been involved in.
  4. Inquire about compensation: Legitimate MLMs compensate based on actual sales to real customers, rather than relying solely on recruitment.
  5. Beware of wealth promises: While MLMs may entice recruits with visions of wealth and independence, be cautious as these promises can often be unrealistic or misleading.

Stay vigilant for red flags indicating an MLM scam, such as high-pressure sales tactics, recruitment-focused approaches, and a lack of transparency about the company’s structure and compensation plan.

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