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Colombians have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in pyramid
schemes that are collapsing around the country, sparking deadly riots
and threatening to hurt an economy already slowed by global financial
turmoil.

Retailers are bracing for a slower-than-expected
Christmas season as the government scurries to measure losses caused by
the scams in which people handed over cash to illegal agencies based on
promises of earning up to 150% interest.

The schemes flourished
until the swindlers started disappearing with the uninsured deposits.
Investors this week stormed and looted the offices of the agencies and
battled riot police as they clamored for repayment.

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