NEW YORK — A gift exchange circulating again on social media asks users to send one gift valued at $10 or more to their "Secret Sister," promising up to 36 presents in return. It seems like a great way to spread the holiday cheer, but it's not. It's a scam.
"Anyone want to join in on this fun?" one version of the post reads. "You have to buy one gift valued of at least $10 and send it to your secret sis. (Hello, Amazon!) you will then receive 6-36 gifts in return."
The post, obtained by CBS News, encouraged users to comment, "I'm In," for more information; but doing so could lead to disappointment when participants receive very few or no presents in return for their efforts.
The scam, which became popular in late 2015, is a pyramid scheme posing as holiday fun.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) explained the scam in a 2015 post on Facebook.
"The people at the top of the 'pyramid' benefit most — and might actually receive the items promised," the USPIS wrote. "However, for everyone to receive what they've been promised, each layer of the pyramid must attract new recruits. It's mathematically impossible to sustain."
It's also illegal, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
"The U.S. Postal Inspection Services says that gift exchanges are illegal gambling and that participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud," the BBB wrote. "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."
Police are also warning of the scam, including the Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Police Department telling its Facebook followers to "ignore" the exchange.
What seems like a fun way to gift-give during the holidays may leave participants out at least $10 — and provide scammers with your home address, leading to more trouble down the road.
Danielle Garrand is a social media producer and trending reporter for CBS News.
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Don’t fall for the ‘secret sister’ gift exchange scam on Facebook
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is warning Facebook users not to fall for this online gift-giving scheme.
A Facebook post has been recirculating online asking social media users to send a gift worth $10 or more to a “secret sister” with a promise of 36 presents in return.
“Anyone want to join in on this fun?” one post read, according to CBS. “You have to buy one gift valued of at least $10 and send it to your secret sis. (Hello, Amazon!) you will then receive 6-36 gifts in return.”
The scam also asked users to comment “I’m in” for more information.
The USPIS first warned about the pyramid scheme in 2015 when it spread like wildfire on Facebook. The law enforcement arm of the US Postal Service said most people won’t receive anything for their contributions and will just be out of cash.
“The people at the top of the ‘pyramid’ benefit most — and might actually receive the items promised,” the USPIS wrote on its Facebook page. “However, for everyone to receive what they’ve been promised, each layer of the pyramid must attract new recruits. It’s mathematically impossible to sustain.”
According to the Better Business Bureau, these pyramid schemes on social media are illegal.
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Secret Sister Gift Exchange (Does it Work?)
Are you wondering if the Secret Sister Gift Exchange works? Don’t want to get left in the cold without any gifts?
Secret Sister Gift Exchange – A Scam?
Update: When calling the Secret Sister Gift Exchange a scam or a scheme – please understand that I don’t at all mean to imply that anyone is purposefully looking to cheat anyone else. I only mean to state that, statistically speaking, the plan is fraught with complications and the 36 promised gifts will very likely not come to pass. I just think it’s good for folks to know this going in. Carry on! 🙂
Jamie here! I’ve been seeing lots of my friends post on their facebook page about this Secret Sister Gift Exchange in which you need to recruit 6 friends to send a $10 Gift. In return, you’ll receive 36 gifts!!! Sound too good to be true? Well – not to be a Debbie Downer, but it is….
How the Secret Sister Gift Exchange Works
The Secret Sister Gift Exchange works like the age-old chain mail premise, where you’ll send one letter and receive a landslide of letters back.
To be fair…. In theory the Secret Sister Gift Exchange could possibly work if all 6 people you sent your letter to stuck with the program and sent it out to their people, and all 36 of those people stuck to it and sent it out to their 216 people, and those 216 people ALL stuck with it and sent it out to their 1,296people. And then you know – at some point, it would exponentially require the entire population of the world to participate and then CIRCLE BACK AROUND to the start of the list – in order for everyone on the list to get their 36 gifts.
In short, you might get one gift back – or maybe two if you’re at the start of the Secret Sister Gift Exchange pyramid where your chances are greatest. (I’ve heard from several folks who really did get one or a few gifts back – so doing it with people you know, and being one of the first to start it will improve your chances) But there’s bound to be people under you who lose out completely. People who were hauled in by other people (or you!) and because they joined later they’re going to have very slim chances of actually getting a gift back. And that stinks.
And you will certainly not receive 36 gifts back with the Secret Sister Gift Exchange.
Here’s how the Secret Sister Exchange is worded…
Welcome to our secret sister gift exchange! Here’s how it works:
1) Send one gift value at least $10 to secret sister #1 below.
2) Remove secret sister’s name from #1; then move secret sister #2 to that spot.
3) Add your name to #2 with your info.
4) Then send this info to 6 other ladies with the updated name info
5) Copy the secret sister request that I posted on my wall, to your own wall. If you cannot complete this within 1 week please notify me, as it isn’t fair to the ladies who have participated and are waiting for their own gifts to arrive. You might want to order directly from a web-based service (Amazon, or any other online shop) which saves a trip to the post office. Soon you should receive 36 gifts! What a deal, 36 gifts for giving just one! Be sure to include some information about yourself … some of your favorites. Seldom does anyone drop out because it’s so much fun to send a gift to someone you may or may not know … and of course it’s fun to receive. You should begin receiving gifts in about 2 weeks if you get your letters out to your 6 people right away.
And if that doesn’t make you leary – just know that the Post Office warns that schemes involving chain letters. And last but not least – Snopes is all over it. So you know, there’s that. 😉
If you’re in a hurry to get in the Christmas spirit – just whip yourself up a batch of this amazing Christmas Crack and settle in to gain a few pounds 😉
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