Facebook ‘Secret Sister Gift Exchange’ Exposed As Scam, Pyramid Scheme

Scam alert! Heads up everyone, it appears as though there is a new scam going around on social media, particularly Facebook, and chances are that you or someone you know is participating.

If you haven’t already seen the posts, search for “secret sisters gift exchange.” It should bring up a lengthy post that explains the process, which has now been confirmed to be a pyramid scheme.

The post reads as below.

“Are you interested in a Holiday Gift Exchange? I don’t care where you live – you are welcome to join. I need 6 (or more) ladies of any age to participate in a secret sister gift exchange. You only have to buy ONE gift valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister, and you will receive 36 in return!”

“Let me know if you are interested and I will send you the information! Please don’t ask to participate if you are not willing to spend the $10. I love getting mail, so I’m totally excited to be doing this!”

“TIS THE SEASON! First 6 (or more) friends who can commit. (then I will private message you details)”

Sounds too good to be true right? Well, that is because it is. While the idea sounds great… pay $10 and receive 36 gifts… the total thing is a scam, and more importantly, illegal.

“A lot of friends are doing it, or at least posting about it. Doesn’t sound like a good idea,” Facebook user Lauren Kidwell said. “You only spend $10, get one gift for someone else. Everybody else sends you one. Doesn’t make sense.”

University of South Florida mass communications instructor Kelli Burns also said she saw the posts, and said the “secret sisters gift exchange” is a typical pyramid scheme.

“I’ve seen it on Facebook. A couple of my friends are participating,” Burns said. “This is a typical pyramid scheme. We’re just seeing this on Facebook this time, instead of the old way of using letters. Facebook allows it to spread a lot faster.”

Investopedia defines a pyramid scheme as “an illegal investment scam based on a hierarchical setup.” The pyramid scheme is “initiated by an individual or a company that starts recruiting investors with an offer of guaranteed high returns.” In this case, the individual or company is the Facebook user who is recruiting their friends and family members to participate with the promise that they will receive 36 gifts for only a $10 cost.

According to NBC 2, the United States Post Office regulations are very clear about pyramid schemes and chain letters, and the gifts are being sent through the mail.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service states the following.

“There’s at least one problem with chain letters. They’re illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.”

Additionally, participating in pyramid schemes is against Facebook’s terms of agreement. The social media site clearly states, “You will not engage in unlawful multi-level marketing, such as a pyramid scheme, on Facebook.”

“Also, 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.

Although the idea sounds enticing, it is best not to get involved. Not only is it illegal, you are posting your name and address all over the Internet. Does that sound like a good idea?

[Photo via Shutterstock]