This holiday season, many Facebook users may see postings about a “Secret Sister” gift exchange that encourages you to send a $10 gift for the opportunity to receive up to 36 gifts from others in the chain. Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns potential participants that the scheme appears to be an illegal pyramid scheme.
“The so-called ‘Secret Sister’ scheme is most likely illegal,” said Michelle L. Corey, St. Louis BBB president and CEO. “If you want to exchange gifts for the holidays, this isn’t the way to go about it.”
The U.S. Post Office warns consumers about chain letters and email messages that promise big returns from a small investment. “Don’t waste your money,” the warning says. “Chain letters don’t work. What’s more, if you mail chain letters, you could be committing a federal crime.”
Consumers considering participating in such a scheme should:
- Check with BBB, the Post Office or law enforcement before becoming involved in a chain letter by mail, email or social media, especially if it involves money or gifts. The Postal Inspection Service toll-free number is 1-888-877-7644
- If someone approaches you about the scheme, ignore them and don’t provide any personal information.
- Don’t start your own chain letter. Doing so is illegal.
- The chances of receiving a substantial return on your investment are almost nil. Most participants in a chain letter scheme receive little or nothing.
BBB Scam Tracker is a great place to research and report scams. For more advice on being a savvy consumer or BBB Business Profiles of businesses or BBB Charity Reviews charities, call (314) 645-3300 or go online to www.bbb.org.