WA pyramid scheme targets vulnerable women

A sham women's group offering spiritual support is in fact an illegal pyramid scheme, with victims unlikely to see a return on their $5000 "gifts".

A Living Workshop in Western Australia's South West region is recruiting women by offering "a higher quality of life through education, empowerment and feminine collaboration".

But Consumer Protection is warning people against joining.

"This group targets women looking for spiritual and financial fulfilment, as well as a sense of belonging, but it comes at a high price," Commissioner David Hillyard said on Sunday.

New members are referred to as seeds and must provide money to existing members who have achieved lotus status, while two women have blossom status and run weekly one-hour conference calls.

Suggestions for raising the cash include hosting a fundraiser, applying for a credit card, asking for an advance on an inheritance, borrowing against a life insurance policy, obtaining a second mortgage, meditating or praying, and getting a Feng Shui consultant to do a cure for attracting money.

Mr Hillyard said that based on the group's information leaflets, it appeared to be a pyramid scheme that preyed on vulnerable women.

"When you strip away the spiritual aspect of the group's manifesto, it is merely a pyramid scheme where only a few at the top will benefit financially and most at the bottom are highly likely to lose their money," he said.

"Without a continuing supply of new members, the scheme eventually collapses."

Mr Hillyard said women's gifting circles originated in the United States and Bali in the 1980s, and similar schemes were uncovered in NSW and New Zealand last year.

He urged members to break the code of silence enforced within the group and come forward with information so authorities could further investigate and charge the organisers.