The Zeekler site on Sunday. From www.zeekler.com

Following reports that ZeekRewards.com and Zeekler.com were shuttered by the SEC after being declared a Ponzi scheme, more than 13,000 users and Zeek affiliates have flocked to an online petition to defend the company from charges against its founder Paul Burks and his company Rex Venture Group.

"In no way [has] this company defrauded anyone. We believe that Zeekler/Zeek Rewards has given us the leadership and the freedom to support our families," the petition states. "Thousands and maybe millions of people are suffering by this and we are taken [sic] a stand of what's right."

The petition calls the shutdown of Zeekler and ZeekRewards "devastating," and the signers say they are "behind Paul Burks, Rex Venture Group, Zeekler/Zeek Rewards and it's affiliates 100%."

Rex Venture Group currently has an "F" rating by the Better Business Bureau. Its core product -- providing an online space for penny auctions -- is also listed as the bureau's top financial scam of 2011. "BBB has concerns about the promised returns on investments that are being reported to us by inquirers," the site's review of the company reads. "Callers indicate that more focus is placed on the recruiting and investing aspects compared to the actual penny auctions themselves."

While legal and financial analysts have described the extent of ZeekReward's scheme as "breath-taking," the petition defends Paul Banks' "vision" to create "a system that the average person can do."

"Zeekrewards.com & Zeekler has changed thousands of lives financially," the petition concludes.

As ZeekRewards affiliates wait to hear about the fate of their money as the company is passed onto a receiver, websites that seem suspiciously similar to ZeekRewards are soliciting former customers anxious about their investments. Websites like Vitelpower.com have begun to bill themselves as "Zeek rescue" programs, and are commenting on news stories about the shutdown to offer any ZeekRewards affiliates the chance to be "grandfathered into an equivalent position with our company."

The North Carolina Department of Justice is now warning ZeekRewards members about these "'reload' scams." A special bulletin posted on the state attorney general's website reads:

Reload scams hit consumers when they're down, offering to help them make back money they lost to a previous scam or bad business decision. These scams have been popular for years with telemarketing fraud rings but can also follow other types of fraud.

We're now seeing reload scams seeking to recruit consumers who were members of Zeekler, a penny auction website headquartered in North Carolina that shut its doors last week and entered into a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC determined that Zeekler was a Ponzi scheme, using money from later investors to pay back earlier investors until the scheme started running out of money. The Attorney General's Office is continuing to investigate Zeekler.

Blogs, news releases online, and individuals leaving comments in articles about the Zeekler shut down are already touting opportunities "for those that are looking for something that can help them replace the income they were receiving from Zeek Rewards." If you've been a part of a scheme such as Zeekler that collapsed, or if you lost money to another recent scam, don't fall for a reload scam. Better to cut your losses than lose even more.

Information and updates about the status of ZeekReward funds are available at a receivership website. The receiver requests that anyone with questions about the case to email them to info@ZeekRewardsReceivership.com.