Gifting clubs are illegal pyramid schemes where new club members typically give cash “gifts” to the highest-ranking members. If you get more people to join, they promise you will rise to the highest level and receive a gift much larger than your original investment. But only a few people profit from this scheme and most people lose their investment.
Organizers keep creating new names for gifting clubs, such as “Friends Helping Friends,” “Women Empowering Women,” “Airplane,” and “Pit Stop,” but these clubs all work the same way and are all illegal. If someone asks you to join a gifting club, don’t fall for their high-pressure sales tactics or stories of great earnings.
Watch out for false claims like these:
Claim: This program is legal.
Fact: Gifting clubs are criminal enterprises. Organizers are guilty of a felony, and participants are guilty of a misdemeanor.
Claim: According to the IRS this is legitimate, because the law allows you to give someone up to $13,000 each year without a tax consequence.
Fact: Gifting clubs are not approved by the IRS.
Claim: The money paid to join is a gift.
Fact: A legitimate gift has no strings attached and is not an investment. Signing a statement that you expect nothing in return does not change the situation, and neither does calling the entry fee a “loan.”
Claim: This has been endorsed by the Attorney General.
Fact: The Attorney General does not endorse any business or investment plan.
Claim: Much of the money is donated to charity.
Fact: Even if the money is donated to charity, this does not make the program legitimate.
Claim: Prominent people are participating in this.
Fact: The people named probably are not participating.
Claim: This program isn’t a pyramid; it’s a circle with money flowing between the members.
Fact: Gifting clubs all meet the definition of an illegal pyramid scheme despite jargon that may be used to disguise the true nature of the program.
Claim: No laws are broken if your gift is in cash and not sent through the US mail service.
Fact: Organizers prefer receiving cash because it is difficult to trace, not because it makes their scheme legal.
Claim: Investing in this program helps create prosperity in the community.
Fact: No new wealth is created by gifting clubs. Money invested at the lower levels simply goes to the person at the highest level. The only way for participants to recover their money is to bring new people into the scheme. When the scheme shuts down, the last people to pay lose all of their money.