Second, many reps and companies know people are leery of and have many misconceived notions about MLM, so they use deception to get prospects to hear their spiel. The important thing for you to remember is to follow your gut feeling. Good reps from legitimate companies that are prevented from using a company name in promotions are usually able to provide some idea about the business (including the name) when talking to you in person (or phone), and are clear that it is a business. Anything else should be suspect.
I think you showed how poor your research is when you tried to claim that MLM’s proper name is referral marketing. I guess Money Magazine got it wrong in 1987? http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1987/06/01/83883/index.htm or maybe USA Today did last year: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2011-02-07-multilevelmarketing03_CV_N.htm ?
I’ve been invited by two people to join MLM businesses. I tried to explain to the first one that she was involved in a legal pyramid scheme, but once you’re sucked in, it’s like you’re brainwashed. When the second person came along, I didn’t even bother trying to talk him out of it. I wrote a post about MLMs back in June and came to the same conclusions that you did.
The legal distinction between MLMs and traditional pyramid schemes has been characterized by many authorities as a legal fiction. Jurisdictions that retain a legal distinction between MLM pyramid businesses versus illegal pyramid schemes retain said distinction on two key distinguishing features: 1) that MLMs always encompass the sale of actual products/services, while traditional illegal pyramid schemes ordinarily do not (though sometimes they do), and 2) that climbing an MLM pyramid is overwhelmingly statistically improbable (especially to its highest participant levels) but not theoretically impossible, whereas climbing a traditional illegal pyramid scheme is both statistically and theoretically impossible.