Women being drawn into secretive gifting Circles

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 22 December 2016
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Photo: 123rf

The Commerce Commission has received seven complaints about gifting circles in New Zealand, but has not investigated any such groups here, it says.

Gifting 'circles' involve women paying thousands of dollars to join a group for friendship and spiritual guidance, and are told their money will grow as the circle does.

Christchurch journalist Anke Richter began looking into the groups after she was invited to join one.

She said they had many similarities to illegal pyramid schemes - where those at the bottom risk losing their money, and she wants the Commerce Commission to put out an official warning.

"Maybe that's all it really takes at this stage, is just for some government body to actually put it out there and say 'This is a pyramid scheme'. 

"It's been a little bit wishy-washy from their [the Commerce Commission's] end to be honest," Ms Richter said.

But in a statement, the Commerce Commission said it strongly advised people not to join gifting circles. 

"We have been informed that at least one gifting circle has set up in New Zealand with a $5000 entrance fee. Gifting circles first emerged in North America and are reported to have operated as pyramid schemes," the Commerce Commission said.

"We haven't investigated the New Zealand incarnations at this time and we don't have information to suggest these circles are common or widespread." 

The Commerce Commission said it was assessing the seven complaints that people had lodged with it.