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By: Peregrine Frissell 

Some Facebook users in the Flathead Valley have unwittingly become part of a pyramid scheme circulating via the social media site and group chats on the accompanying Facebook Messenger app, and the Montana State Auditor’s office has deemed it illegal.

Over the weekend, officials from the state agency became aware of a collection of posts concerning a “Friendsgiving Network,” said Kyle Schmauch, a media specialist with the agency.

“We see pyramid schemes pop up in all different forms at different times. This is the first time we’ve seen one in this exact form,” Schmauch said. “We’ll be looking at it to see if we can figure out who started it.”

The scheme is unique in that it appears there is no small group of people siphoning off money from everyone, but rather all the money is distributed among the 15 people that have bought in to any given pyramid.

Rather than a small group of culprits scamming the public, it is a movement sustained on participants’ abilities to attract more participants in their own peer group. Many people who claim to be investors in public Facebook posts cite the fact that it appears to be more egalitarian than many pyramid schemes as a reason people should participate.

An initial buy-in of $100 gets people a spot at the bottom of the pyramid. They move up by convincing other friends to buy in, funneling the bottom layer into higher rungs and spinning off new pyramids to accommodate more participants…

In a press release, State Auditor Matt Rosendale said, “If an opportunity to make money sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Read more at the Daily Inter Lake