Revealed: Facebook still allowing ‘unauthorised’ wealth scheme adverts

Vulnerable people are losing money to the ‘infinite income’ scheme, while authorities fail to act

by: Dimitris Dimitriadis

When Angela Musso, a doctor and a single mother from Norfolk, came across a money-making scheme called Matrix Freedom, she thought she had found an answer to her problems.

She had racked up debt after being dismissed as a GP at the height of the pandemic, for refusing to wear a mask. Angela started a new career in “holistic medicine”, but her financial position remained bad.

That all looked set to change when she discovered Matrix Freedom. Founded by Iain Clifford Stamp, 56, the scheme claimed to facilitate “commerce freedom solutions” and seemed to offer a fresh start for Angela and her family. On its website, Matrix Freedom sets out a “roadmap to freedom” showing how participants can become “financially abundant”.

The first step was simply to become a member. By Step 6, Angela would be creating “infinite income” to support her family. The decision seemed obvious: years of money troubles had made her distrustful of high street banks and she wanted an alternative solution.

“Bank charges are unfair,” she told openDemocracy. “I was looking for something different.”

Angela signed up in late 2021, paying around £8,000 to two divisions of Matrix Freedom – Sovereign Reserve and Mortgagefree – in the hope that the scheme would help her write off her credit card, loans and mortgage debt. But she never got her money back.

She told openDemocracy that she has been requesting a refund from Matrix Freedom since April 2022, but has not been able to get a penny of it back. All the while, she says the scheme promised her “more and more”.

In an email seen by openDemocracy, a Matrix Freedom representative told Angela: “Iain [Stamp] has some very good news for you… Iain has put you on a privileged list of members that are able to enjoy all ten Roadmap to Freedom financial abundance benefits at no extra cost.”

The message adds that Angela was eligible to become a “Secured Party Creditor (SPC)” and enjoy a range of benefits from “tax exemption (income tax and PAYE)”, “counsel tax exemption” [sic] and the ability to “recoup your payments and loan securities”.

Since handing her money over, Angela’s debts have skyrocketed – made worse by the financial crisis. Her credit score has tanked even further, and she says at one point she was being constantly “harassed” by debt collectors. But Matrix Freedom has continued to advertise its supposed money-making solutions.

“They were promising you a better life,” she said. “They were wolves in sheep’s skin.”

The Financial Conduct Authority issued a warning about Matrix in 2021, stating: ‘This firm is not authorised by us and is targeting people in the UK'

So how did the scheme manage to target Angela with adverts in the first place? After all, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning about Matrix in 2021, stating: “This firm is not authorised by us and is targeting people in the UK.” The regulator added that people are unlikely to get their money back “if things go wrong”.

However, the FCA has stopped short of calling it a “scam” and refused to confirm whether it had taken any further action. Meanwhile, the UK’s national anti-fraud agency, Action Fraud, refused to answer openDemocracy’s questions about the case – and would not even confirm if an investigation has been launched.

All the while, individuals like Angela have given up hope of ever getting their money back.

Matrix Freedom was also able to run a series of adverts on Facebook between January and June 2022, amassing a following of more than 2,000 people on the platform, including Angela. One of the ads read: “If somebody tells you that you can create unlimited money to settle your mortgage, credit cards, loans, taxes and reclaim your bank payments, would you believe them?” Another said that the scheme is based on “the greatest secret to financial abundance”.

When openDemocracy questioned Matrix Freedom’s presence on Facebook last year, the social media platform insisted that it would take action. A spokesperson from Meta told us: “We’ve removed the page and ads shared with us for violating our policies. Fraudulent activity is not allowed on our platforms and we continue to invest in new technologies and methods to proactively remove this type of activity.”

Stephen Dewen (Head of Legal) threatens People like Angela into Silence

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However, a new Facebook page was immediately created by Matrix Freedom and has been allowed to stay online. To date, it has accumulated more than 1,100 followers.

The scheme is also active on Instagram – which, along with Facebook, is owned by Meta. It now has more than 2,600 followers on the platform, having been active since at least June 2021.

In recent years, the social media giant has faced intense scrutiny over the way it deals with issues like fake news, inappropriate advertising, racism and extremist content. But relatively few questions have been asked about Meta’s efforts to prevent fraud.

Last year, the consumer rights organisation Which? criticised Facebook’s “lack of due diligence” over promoting unauthorised financial firms. Meta later brought in a new raft of measures designed to protect users, including banning adverts of financial products that are not registered with the FCA. But this policy has not stopped Matrix Freedom from flourishing on the platform.

Matrix Freedom is also using LinkedIn to recruit agents and clients, and is currently advertising “commission-based” roles based on referrals. Its post reads: “Receive a passive income by helping others become free from: Secured debt. Unsecured debt. Taxes. Injustice. State-imposed control. Lack of income. Ill-health.”

Matrix Earn £500k per month Selling Dreams

‘Sovereign Citizen’ ideology

With access to Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms – and no action taken by UK authorities – Matrix Freedom has been able to build an enthusiastic army of supporters.

One such supporter is Kevin Stanford, the business tycoon who founded British fashion brand Karen Millen and used to be chair of the fashion retailer All Saints.

Stanford, 62, was declared bankrupt in 2019 and has been caught up in legal cases. In an interview promoting Matrix Freedom online, the businessman said he was “in need of a miracle” when he came across Matrix Freedom, having lost huge amounts of money. In another interview, he said that the scheme “enabled me to settle pretty much everything, every issue I had”.

Stanford said: “I was very sceptical, but I was very, very intrigued.” He added: “I think you have to suffer a trauma or go through something really quite dramatic to really understand how it works. And when you do, it’s quite enlightening.”

Another endorsement has come from Dr Samuel White, a former NHS GP who had his social media activities temporarily suspended after he shared misinformation about the Covid pandemic, before successfully challenging the ban.

White told his 15,000 followers on Telegram: “The guys at Matrix Freedom will help you eliminate your mortgage and recover payments; settle credit cards; loans and taxes; and even reclaim payments you have made from your bank in the last 3 years.”

Of course, experts and regulators advise against investing in unauthorised schemes such as Matrix Freedom. Rachel Goldwasser, a research analyst from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a US non-profit that campaigns against hate groups and disinformation, said that people who believe Matrix Freedom’s claim that debt can be written off “will be duped” and stand to “lose not only the money they’ve paid but likely go further into debt and default on that debt”.

After reviewing Matrix Freedom’s website and claims, she told openDemocracy that the business is using conspiracy theories rooted in so-called “Sovereign Citizen ideology”, a once fringe movement whose popularity has surged during Covid. At the heart of the movement is the false claim that “sovereigns” can essentially ignore any rules they dislike and substitute them for their own. This has involved everything from “opting out” of paying taxes and fines to rejecting the Covid vaccines.

Much of Sovereign Citizen ideology is couched in its own made-up version of history, Goldwasser said. For instance, it says that the US is not a country but a bankrupt corporation that went bust in 1933 when it turned away from the gold standard.

Followers of the movement have often committed financial fraud against the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by knowingly filling out tax forms fraudulently in the belief that they are protected by ancient legal rights. In fact, the practice is so widespread and damaging that the IRS now debunks it on its website.

Matrix Freedom appears to be paying homage to Sovereign Citizen ideology and so-called “Redemption Theory” through various ads, posts and sections on its website.

“Our birth certificate is a trust,” Matrix Freedom says on its Facebook page, “unbeknown to us the State created a fictional Strawman entity represented by our name. Our Strawman is our agent in commerce, an indentured debt slave that operates in the Matrix, a system based on commerce and maritime law of contract. Once you discover the Roadmap to Freedom you can step out of the Matrix to freedom, become free from debt and tax, and much more.”

Christine Sarteschi, an associate professor of social work and criminology at Chatham University, said: “Virtually everything on their [Matrix Freedom’s] website is sovereign citizen ideology in nature,” adding that “everything they are doing is illegitimate based on a very desirable fantasy.”

She described Matrix Freedom as a “standard sovereign citizen scam”, which is also what Angela Musso now believes about the company.

‘Afraid or greedy’

When openDemocracy tracked down the founder of Matrix Freedoms, Iain Clifford Stamp, he strongly denied any wrongdoing. Speaking over Zoom last year, his responses sounded well rehearsed; variations of comments he had previously made during the webinars he runs to promote the scheme.

Matrix Freedom founder Iain Clifford Stamp described himself as a source of ‘light energy’ and a man of ‘great integrity’

Stamp describes himself as an “extraordinary problem solver” whose character was trashed by “the establishment” in order to “protect the global control plan”. During the pandemic, he claimed there was “no virus” and has appeared in videos alongside the son of conspiracy theorist David Icke.

During the interview, Stamp described himself as the conductor of an orchestra, a source of “light energy” and a man of “great integrity”.

Speaking about Matrix Freedom, he compared the scheme to buying an option. “If the market goes against you, you lose your premium,” he said, adding: “I will succeed for everybody.”

Elsewhere, Stamp has touted his business record, saying that he has “built and directed multiple corporate ventures in the UK, USA, and Ireland as the CEO”.

But Matrix Freedom is not the only scheme of his to get into trouble with regulators in the UK. In 2010, the financial regulators publicly censured another company he headed, called Integrity Financial Solutions, accusing it of providing “misleading” information. A £350,000 fine was waived, only because the company was already in liquidation and the regulator said that any money left “should be used to meet customer claims”.

In 2017, Stamp made headlines after investors told regulators that they feared they would not get back €5m (£4.4m) they had pumped into a series of Irish companies he controlled.

But when questioned, he seemed unsympathetic towards individuals such as Angela Musso, who appears to have lost thousands of pounds to his finance scheme. He said that people who join the “basic” membership tier of his scheme are “either afraid or they are greedy”.

“They want to get rid of their mortgage,” he said. “They can’t afford to pay it any more, or because they’re greedy and they just want to have a nice lifestyle.” He added that Matrix Freedom is “not recommending anything” but merely providing “some information” that might be useful.

In an email, Stamp was also dismissive of warnings issued by regulators, claiming: “The FCA have not pursued any case whatsoever, in fact the FCA directors privately agreed (private record), with me personally, the case was totally without merit and based on misunderstandings.

“If a member decides to engage a solution with an authorised independent third-party administrator provider, this relationship is strictly governed by contract. MF [Matrix Freedom] makes no contractual warranties any solution will work.”

He also distanced himself from the Sovereign Citizens theory, describing it as an “oxymoron”. “The whole notion of sovereign citizenship is ridiculous,” he said.

Responding to openDemocracy’s investigation, a spokesperson for the FCA said it “is unable to comment on individual cases”.

“We urge people to be wary of any promotion made by someone who is unauthorised as you are unlikely to have any protection if things go wrong,” they said. “We have been calling on the government to ensure financial content is included within the Online Safety Bill, and with these changes coming into force tech and social media companies will need to step up.”

As for Angela Musso, she says she has reported Matrix Freedom to Action Fraud but warned that her experience with Matrix Freedom “caused even more stress than the debt itself”. She is now focused on trying to heal from the experience.