A popular holiday chain letter has resurfaced and is making waves across social media. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) first warned of the “Secret Sister” gift exchange back in 2016.
The social media campaign claims participants will receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one gift valued at $10. Users are encouraged to invite others to participate in the holiday gift exchange, where they will receive information on where to mail gifts.
“This online gift exchange, which is an illegal pyramid scheme, has made its way back this holiday season,” said Mallory Wojciechowski, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Eastern NC. “Consumers need to be aware that this is happening and think before responding to a post that mentions this on social media.”
The U.S. Postal Inspection Services says that gift exchanges are illegal gambling and that participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud. Pyramid schemes are illegal, either by mail or on social media, if money or other items of value are requested with assurance of a sizeable return for those who participate.
How this scheme works:
Scammers will often times hack into someone’s social media platforms and post about the exchange with the intention of getting of people to believe that their friend is starting it for the holidays. The post mentions that if a participant purchases one gift for a stranger, she will receive as many as 36 gifts in return.
This type of gift exchange may seem reasonable enough in theory: six friends invite six more friends, who all send gifts to the participant in spot 1 before that person’s name is removed. This process repeats itself with the participant in the 2 spot, and so on. Of course, starting this gift exchange comes with a catch – you need to disclose your personal information, such as your home address.
If you receive a chain letter by mail, email, or social media, especially one that involves money or gifts, ignore it. Report the post to Facebook by clicking on the three little dots in the upper right corner of the post. Consumers can also report to the scam to BBB Scamtracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.
For more information, visit bbb.org.