Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Colombia scam: 'I lost my money'

A Colombian primary school teacher, Ingrid, tells BBC News how she and many others in Caicedonia, western Colombia, fell for the pyramid money schemes, and lost out.

I'd say 90% of people in this town have lost money.

Caicedonia, Valle del Cauca, Colombia
Queueing to get money back from pyramid schemes in Caicedonia

I put $30 in the scheme because I wanted to see what would happen.

One of my colleagues at school saw an advert on an office wall, promising a return of 90% on investments, in 30 days' time.

They organised a group donation and together we put in $350.

[Giggles nervously]. I am laughing because it's funny to believe we actually did that.

People found the cash to invest from all sorts of places, some people even sold their homes. Two places in Caicedonia were offering these pyramid schemes.

We put our money in one month ago; we were supposed to collect our money today.

Some people did win money! They bought TVs, cars and stuff for their houses

My co-workers placed the investment, they didn't know the people behind the scheme, they were from another city in Colombia.

We first realised there were problems last Tuesday when we saw big queues at the pyramid office. Friends told me they weren't getting their money back because too many people were asking for it at the same time.

But some people did win money! I know because some of them are friends of mine and they bought TVs, cars, and stuff for their houses that they wanted. But not many got their money back.

The pyramid bank is empty now, nobody's there. People queued for two days and a night, then they came back with guns to get their money, but when they shot their way in, nobody was there.

I think we believed in this scheme because life in Colombia is not easy for us. We cannot find jobs with good salaries.

People want a better life. It wasn't just the poor who did this, some very rich people put money in too.

I'm glad my family didn't put too much in! I will never do it again. And we are teaching the children not to do it.

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