BBB warns ‘Secret Sister Gift Exchange’ is illegal scam

  
     
November 28, 2016

Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana is alerting consumers about the online “Secret Sister Gift Exchange,” which is alleged to be an illegal pyramid scheme. The exchange has been circulating on social media sites and claims that 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.

While gift exchanges grow in popularity during the holiday season, BBB advises consumers to use caution when choosing one in which to participate. According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's gambling and pyramid scheme laws, gift chains like this are illegal and participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud.

Here is how this scheme works: If a consumer 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 named 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.

This is a typical pyramid scheme. This is on Facebook instead of the old way of using letters because social media allows it to spread a lot faster.

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.

If you receive a chain letter by mail, email or social media, especially one that involves money or gifts, Better Business Bureau recommends:

  • Start With Trust®. 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.

 

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service offers information about chain letters at www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect, or you can call the Postal Inspection Service toll-free at 1-888-877-7644.

“Look for the Seal” and Start with Trust®. BBB Serving Acadiana is a private non-profit organization. BBB strives for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.

Please contact Better Business Bureau at (337) 981-3497 24 or bbb.org 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. Consumers can also sign up for our “Scoop” BBB eNewsletter by visiting bbb.org and clicking on the “Programs & Services” tab.

BBB Serving Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.