Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC
Are you tempted to play “The Circle Game,” join a “Blessing Loom,” or jump on a “Money Board”? These are some of the names for an online scam that’s making the rounds at a time when millions of people are out of work and scraping for cash. It promises a big return for a modest investment. Don’t fall for it. You’re virtually guaranteed to lose your money, or pull in friends and family who will lose theirs.
Also known as the “Mandala Game,” “Blessing Circle,” “Infinity Loom,” “Giving Circle,” and by other names, the scam is a chain letter-type of pyramid scheme. While versions vary slightly, the one we’re hearing about most promises that you’ll collect $800 for an investment of $100 and, at the same time, help bring good fortune to someone else by recruiting them to join. Here’s how it works.
You see a post or get a direct message on Instagram, Facebook, or other social media. It invites you to join the Circle or Loom by sending $100 through PayPal or another digital payment service to the person whose name is at the center of an octagon-shaped playing board. Your payment gets you one of eight spots on the outer ring of the board and a chance to move towards the center by recruiting other people to join. As more people join, your board changes and the number of playing boards expands. Eventually, you’re supposed to land at the center of a playing board and collect $100 from each of eight new recruits on the outer ring. That’s when you leave the game or start all over again with another $100 payment.
What’s the harm? Like other types of pyramid schemes, these chain letters depend on recruiting new people to keep money flowing into the enterprise. There are no products sold or real investments creating profits. Once players run out of new recruits to bring into the game, the money dries up and everyone waiting to reach the center comes up empty handed.
If you get an offer to join an online game like this, beware – it’s a scam. The warning signs? Promises that you will make money by paying in yourself and recruiting others to do the same. If the offer comes from a friend or family member, warn them. And, if you’ve paid someone to join this game, please tell us: ftc.gov/complaint. Your report can help us protect others from a scam.