IT'S BACK! 😱 The Secret Sister Gift Exchange sounds too good to be true – a telltale sign of a scam. If you have a success story, that just means you received gifts while some were left with nothing.
In this scheme, you are asked to send one gift to one person, then add your name and address to the list. Then you send the information to 6 others who should do the same, and so on. Whether it’s exchanging gifts, bottles of wine, or books, here are SIX reasons to avoid these type of schemes.
1. It’s illegal. The U.S. Postal Service classifies this as a chain letter, a form of gambling, “if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants.”
2. It’s a pyramid scheme. The first people to join may get several gifts, but the later people get involved, the fewer gifts they’ll receive – if any. If YOU participated in the past and received many gifts, that just means there are several others who received nothing.
3. It could get you kicked off of Facebook. Pyramid schemes are against Facebook’s terms of service. Promoting one could get you banned from Facebook. Even if you don’t, your friends will likely grow weary of seeing the posts.
4. It’s mathematically impossible. If a group of 5 friends each buys one gift, there will be a total of 5 gifts. That’s because 5 (people) x 1 (gift) = 5 gifts. This scheme promises 6-36 gifts in return. 5 (people) x 1 (gift) does not "magically" equal 30-180 gifts. For every extra gift you receive, someone is receiving nothing in return somewhere down the line.
5. It puts you at risk for Identity theft. As more friends share with their friends, your address will inevitably end up in the hands of people you don’t know. If your plan is to only involve a small number of friends with no outsiders, see Reason #4 as to why it won’t work.
6. There are other ways to “pay it forward.” Some argue they don’t expect anything in return, and they just want to “pay it forward in the spirit of giving.” While this is admirable, there are plenty of ways to accomplish this without participating in an illegal scheme or putting yourself at risk for identity theft. You can donate to charity or pay for a stranger's meal. You could also participate in a traditional gift exchange ("White Elephant game" for example) wherein everyone buys one gift and gets one gift in return.
If you see a friend or family member attempting to start one, please ask them to reconsider, and direct them to this post for more information. Alternately, you can report such posts to Facebook.
For more information, here is a link to information from the Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/acadiana/news-events/bbb-scam-alerts/2016/11/bbb-warns-secret-sister-gift-exchange-is-illegal-scam/