Last year’s trucker convoy protests threatened to storm into the nation’s capital, but ended with a whimper in May as the group disbanded amid intense infighting. However, in recent days, the movement was reawakened by text message “scammers” calling for the truckers to join a multi-level marketing scheme.
On Saturday, people who had given their phone numbers to the “People’s Convoy” group received an anonymous text message.
“Hi Patriot friends!!! Biden is killing us at the pump, we have some help for you!” the message said.
This offer to the convoy patriots was not another plan to take over Washington. Instead, it was a decidedly questionable business opportunity that was quickly disavowed by some of the group’s organizers.
The “People’s Convoy” was formed early last year to protest COVID mandates. While the group was not ever quite united, some members had the initial goal of trying to “occupy” Washington D.C. — or at least driving by the White House and disrupting traffic. The convoy was inspired by trucker protests against COVID restrictions in Canada. While the Canadian demonstrations led to a state of emergency declaration in Ottawa and blockades in that country’s capital for weeks, the impact of the American protest was far more muted. The “People’s Convoy” barely made it inside the District of Columbia before falling apart in May 2022 as members brawled with each other and raised questions about what exactly happened to the $1.8 million raised by the movement.
On Facebook, the group’s main page was dormant for over three months until Saturday when one of the administrators, Kris Young, sent a message addressing the mysterious texts.
“Hi everyone! We just want to let everyone know that if you are receiving text messages that say The People’s Convoy, they are from scammers and are not from us,” Young wrote, adding, “Please do not click the links and delete the messages.”
The text message linked to a website with an all caps header declaring “TIRED OF OVERPAYING FOR GAS?” Readers were invited to submit their contact information and “learn how to save money on gas and help others do the same.” Those who did so were led to another page informing them that “Success is a choice” and inviting them to “Be the CEO of your own life.” It also opened up a video pitch from Josh Zwagil, the CEO and founder of MyDailyChoice, a company that bills itself as a “House of Brands.”
In the ten minute clip, Zwagil offered viewers “an unmatched home-based business opportunity” selling one of his company’s offerings, “Fuel Factor X.” According to MyDailyChoice’s marketing materials, “Fuel Factor X,” which the company launched last year, can reduce emissions and dramatically improve your gas mileage.
“This product is like superfood for your engine. It’s a comprehensive fuel treatment,” Zwagil said in the clip. “The secret sauce behind this product is the organometallic compound. This helps you burn your fuel more efficiently.”
Those claims are, at best, questionable. The auto insurance company, Geico, has a whole webpage dedicated to answering questions about so-called fuel additives. Geico noted these products are often sold with “impressive claims about how they will improve the performance of your engine.” However, the insurance company urged potential customers to be skeptical and noted the Federal Trade Commission “recommends a buyer-beware approach” when it comes to fuel additives.
Ray Wert, a car industry veteran and former editor in chief of the automotive blog Jalopnik, offered an even more brutal assessment in a conversation with TPM.
“Fuel additives are bullshit,” Wert said. “There is no magical solution to better fuel economy and there is no magical solution to taking care of a vehicle’s engine.”
However, fuel additives weren’t necessarily the main thing being sold in the text message that went out to members of the “People’s Convoy” group.
MyDailyChoice is a self-described “network” marketing company that sells products through affiliates who recruit other affiliates. The video promoting “Fuel Factor X” was sent to the “People’s Convoy” group by a MyDailyChoice affiliate who identified themselves as “TMP Solutions.” In the clip, Zwagil suggested people who sold his company’s products would experience massive success.
“I was a nobody when I got started, but my future belonged to me,” Zwagil said. “I was able to achieve some of the most wildest dreams through this industry.”
In addition to “Fuel Factor X,” MyDailyChoice’s offerings include “Mantra Synergy” essential oils, “Cosmikology” skincare, and the “Hempworx” line of CBD products.
The affiliate sales business model, which is also known as multi-level marketing, is not illegal. However, it is viewed by many experts as a “scam.” Jon Taylor and the Consumer Awareness Institute produced a book on the industry that concluded 99 percent of people who participate in multi-level marketing businesses “lose money.”
“Our studies, along with those done by other independent analysts (not connected to the MLM industry), clearly prove that MLM as a business model – with its endless chain of recruitment of participants as primary customers – is flawed, unfair, and deceptive,” Taylor wrote. “Worldwide feedback suggests it is also extremely viral, predatory and harmful to many participants. This conclusion does not apply just to a specific MLM company, but to the entire MLM industry. It is a systemic problem.”
MyDailyChoice and “TMP Solutions,” the company’s affiliate who sent the messages to the “People’s Convoy” group, did not respond to requests for comment. Two prominent organizers of the trucker protests, Brian Brase and Marcus Sommers, also did not respond to requests for comment.
In recent years, the far right has proved fertile ground for business people selling all manner of questionable products including brain pills and dietary supplements. In 2011, researchers coined the term “conspirituality” to describe how the world of digital conspiracy theories that proliferate in far-right circles overlaps with the New Age wellness community.
Kris Young, the “People’s Convoy” Facebook administrator who urged group members to ignore the text message, told TPM he suspected the “scammers” were trying to capitalize on the movement’s following.
“I assume, like most scammers, they had to use something that people would know and to get their attention in hopes they opened the link,” Young wrote in a message to TPM. “In this case it was TPC.”
One of the “People’s Convoy” members who responded to Young’s post offered their own assessment of the situation.
“SAD that many may be dooped,” they wrote.
The post ended with a sad face emoji.