Testing the theory of something sounding too good to be true, dozens of senior citizens in China pinned their hopes on a new revenue stream: Free money for Lunar New Year’s Day from Jack Ma.
The lines formed at bank branches in Fuzhou, Jiangxi Province on Friday evening, according to reports from the Global Times and Radio France International.
An online discussion site, WeChat, hosted a group telling anyone who would listen that Ma, 56, was giving away 200 Chinese yuan, or about $30, to Chinese citizens aged 60 or older on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The only caveat was that the seniors had to bring an ID similar to the U.S. social security card for verification.
Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, had not confirmed or denied the initial reports.
But the Fuzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau warned the claims were “pure rumor.”
During the Lunar New Year holidays, people exchange red envelopes filled with cash.
Lending some fuel to the rumors is the fact that Ma’s company has used the Lunar New Year for promotions. Seven years ago, Alibaba used WeChat to distribute small cash coupons resembling red envelopes for use on its online shopping service.
According to Forbes, the 99,999 red envelopes online worth about $153,000 were claimed in the first three minutes.
Ma, who was thought to be missing last fall after his speech criticizing China’s banking regulations, has since been seen on live-streamed video Jan. 20 and at a golf resort on the Chinese island of Hainan, according to Bloomberg.
Ma’s Ant Group IPO had been canceled but regulators may reconsider the decision and allow it, Bloomberg reported.