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Binary options — why are the victims silent?

An exposé by The Times of Israel has brought attention to a long-festering problem
Ramat Gan's Moshe Aviv Tower, Israel's tallest building, houses many binary options companies (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)
Ramat Gan's Moshe Aviv Tower, Israel's tallest building, houses many binary options companies (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

On March 10th this year, a federal court in Las Vegas, Nevada issued a Consent Order requiring Oren Shabat Laurent of Israel and his binary options companies to pay $7.1 million in restitution to US customers who traded illegal, off-exchange binary options. They have also been ordered to pay a $2 million civil monetary penalty and were permanently banned from offering or trading any further off-exchange binary options to US customers.

The recent article in the Times of Israel shed some long-overdue light on a shady industry of binary options trading. I remember a conversation I had with a friend in early 2014 about Oren Shabat. Like many other young Tel Avivans, my friend worked in the industry, and personally knew the guy. He seemed fascinated by him and said he didn’t believe in God or karma. Where else would I get that paycheck, he shrugged. He wanted to be rich, too. He wanted to impress.

About the time same time, we had our conversation, Ariel Marom, whom the Times of Israel had tried to find for the article, was working in binary options trading as well. Marom had had a previous 10-year experience in the financial sector and pension funds when he first got introduced to the world of binary options in Israel in 2013. Within half a year, he changed four jobs. Very soon, he had had enough of the unscrupulous industry.

Marom left Israel and now lives in Moscow, running his own business. In fact, he didn’t know anything about the exposé piece until his friends started writing to him. I liked Marom. He seemed like a good person. Someone who actually stood up for something. So I wrote to him.

Ariel Marom was not a lost kid who didn’t know what to do with his life. He was not after having a good time while refusing to look the truth in the eyes. He got fed up. He took up the fight. He started involving the press and politicians. He wrote a letter to the Knesset in November 2014. Unfortunately, as is the case with many high-profile scams, money is king and goes a long way. Marom believes that the forex and binary companies have a huge lobby in Israel and were for many years blocking any initiative to pass laws and regulations that could limit and control the industry.

And maybe the tide has turned and the scammers will finally be stopped – but thousands of people in Israel alone have lost their money – and millions around the world. Millions.

Let this sink in. Millions of people around the world have lost their money to Israeli scammers.

I don’t even want to elaborate on this.

According to Marom, more than half of binary options companies that work in the Russian-speaking market operate from Israel. Furthermore, Israeli-run companies constitute about one-third of the the French-speaking market, and about one-fifth of the English-speaking market. Several Israeli-run companies have multi-lingual departments.

Marom had had enough and left the country. My friend, the one who admired Oren Shabat, lost his money trying to run a shady enterprise of his own. Yes, for his part, that’s a fair karma. But do we put our trust in karma? Are we that helpless? How many have killed themselves, lost their savings, how many feel stupid, guilty and ashamed?

How many victims are out there? Why are they silent? Do they feel stupid, do they feel that it was their own fault? Or do they feel that “the Secret” did not worked for them, that the magical law of attraction that lets you control the universe had backfired because of their own lack of faith, and they have no one but themselves to blame? The traders think they are so much smarter than their clients who are willing to part with their money for ethereal promises of gain that would never materialize — but in truth both worship the same god.

The problem is not the binary options. The problem is ignorance and greed. The problem is a lack of solid moral and spiritual foundation. I would concede to some extent that the problem is lack of other options to earn a decent living. Yes, it is true, living costs are high in Israel. But I have lived in Norway for 15 years, where education is free and the salaries are higher. And believe me, I met people there who were out for quick money. Trading, betting, investing. Constantly losing, constantly “attracting” and “manifesting”, constantly talking about “the Secret”, never settling, but forever chasing the golden calf.

Merely providing resources does not help as long as the mindset is “the universe owes me.” The problem is not lack of options. The problem is the mindset. The mindset of users. It is true that in the long run, ill-gotten gain doesn’t work. Unfortunately, and very often, it is someone else who has to pay first.

We don’t have time to pity those who have chosen the path of scamming other people because of their lack of other options. We don’t have time to wait for the laws of karma to magically set in and do the work for us. The mentality of victim-blaming and trying to understand the perpetrator is exactly what these scammers live off. You got cheated? Your fault for being so stupid! Enough. The victims deserve justice.

About the Author
Currently pursuing an academic career in the Southern US, Inga lived and studied in Israel while following her lifelong passion for spirituality and discovery.
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