The “Secret Sister Gift Exchange” has hit Facebook again this year and police are reminding the public that it is a scam.
It has been a problem in years past and has resurfaced.
The scam begins with a Facebook post asking you to buy a gift of $10 or more. You’re asked to add your name to a list. In exchange, the scam promises, you’ll receive 36 gifts.
University of South Florida mass communications instructor Kelli Burns knows all about the secret sister gift exchange. “I’ve seen it on Facebook. A couple of my friends are participating,” Burns said last year.
“This is a typical pyramid scheme. We’re just seeing this on Facebook this time instead of the old way of using letters, and Facebook allows it to spread a lot faster,” she added.
The biggest problem with the post is it’s illegal. United States Post Office regulations are very clear about pyramid schemes, and these gifts are being sent through the mail.
It’s also problematic because your personal information, including your home address, is posted on Facebook. “It’s against Facebook’s terms of agreement. So there’s the potential that Facebook, if they got wind of this, could block your account,” Burns said.
If you receive a chain letter by mail, email or social media, especially one that involves money or gifts, Better Business Bureau recommends:
- Check with BBB before becoming involved in suspicious and possibly illegal activity.
- To avoid this scam, the best thing to do is completely ignore it altogether. Do not give out personal information to anyone.
- Chain letters via social media and U.S. mail that involve money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal. If you start a chain letter or send one, you are breaking the law.
- Chances are you will receive little or no money back on your “investment.” Despite the claims, a chain letter will never make you rich.
- Some chain letters try to win your confidence by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government.
If you believe you are a victim, you can file a complaint and get more information online, at this link.