Hoax busted: 'Secret sister gift exchange' on Facebook is a scam and illegal
Hoax busted: 'Secret sister gift exchange' on Facebook is a scam and illegalReuters

Beware Facebook users! A new scam has made its way to the world's largest social networking site, luring some into a major scam. Dubbed the "Secret Sister Gift Exchange", this scam has been making the rounds on Facebook in time for holidays, which is suitably the right time to get a good response. The Washington Post refers to the "Secret Sister Gift Exchange" merely as a modernised version of an old pyramid or chain-letter scheme.

The Secret Sister Gift Exchange works smartly, wherein you are asked to send one person a gift valued at $10 and get as many as 36 gifts in return. Too good to be true? Indeed. Do not fall for the trick as it requires you to recruit six friends to join, and the list grows. Since the invite for this scam comes from a friend, it makes it likelier for others to fall for it.

Here's how the Secret Sister Gift Exchange scheme works:

The first prompt in the scheme says: Welcome to our secret sister gift exchange! Here is how it works:"

It then lists out the following steps: 

  1. Send one gift valued at least $10 to secret sister that is place number one below
  2. Remove secret sister's name from #1; then move secret sister No. 2 to that spot.
  3. Add your name to No. 2 with your info.
  4. Then send this info to the other ladies with the updated name info
  5. Copy the secret sister request that I sent you and move me to No 1 and yourself to No 2.

"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," reads the message.

"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," it goes on to add, according to Snopes, which debunked the scheme.

As tempting as it may sound, this scheme is also illegal as it violates Facebook's terms of agreement. And your participation can eventually lead to termination of your account. Also, there are clear laws against pyramid schemes like Secret Sister Gift Exchange.

"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. (Chain letters that ask for items of minor value, like picture postcards or recipes, may be mailed, since such items are not things of value within the meaning of the law.)," The United States Post Office regulations state.

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