Pyramid schemes are not a simply exchange of money… MLMs with products can be illegal pyramid schemes. One example of an MLM – pyramid scheme with products that got shut down by FTC is JewelWay: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/11/jewel-2.shtm. The FTC says nothing about product being reasonably priced. That’s a slippery slope when people will pay thousands for a fashionable handbag.
Multi-level marketing companies are not required to release information about the average income of distributors in the United States. However, some MLMs do release this information in what is called an income disclosure statement. If you would like to see the amount of income gained by distributors on average for a specific MLM, search the company’s name in Google + “income disclosure statement.”
Don’t give up, and don’t throw money into areas where you don’t have to. There’s no such thing as completely free marketing leads – you are always risking something, whether it is your brand, or your future earning potential. However, with good networking, passion, and the right people, you can achieve success. Talk to some mentors and more experienced marketers today, and see what they have to say for you. You may be surprised at how much you can bring in, with the right choices when you are getting started.