Utahns should stay away from a pyramid/chain letter scheme called "Lucky Thirteen" that seems to be sweeping the state.

The scheme requires a person to approach two friends with a letter and a $5 money order. The friends must purchase the packet for $10 and mail the money order to the name at the top of a list of 13 names. The friends then put their names at the bottom, buy two $5 money orders and each sell the packets plus one of the money orders to two other people, said the Better Business Bureau.The chain letter promises a profit of $40,960 within 13 days, said Bill Beadle, director of the bureau.

"As soon as one of these gets around and people start experiencing limited success, then instead of $5, it's asking for $100 or $1,000. People would be willing to risk $5 or $10. But once it starts gaining a foothold then people will get involved with the $100, $500 or $1,000 pyramids."

That's when people start losing a significant sum of money, Beadle said.

Both the bureau and the Division of Consumer Protection warn that the scheme is against Utah law.

Schemes that include chain letters calling for cash violate Utah's Consumer Sales Practice Act and criminal code, the division said.

By using the U.S. mail, the scheme violates federal law as well.

"Lucky 13" maintains it doesn't use the postal service to distribute the plan, therefore it is legal. However, the U.S. mail is used to mail the money orders, Beadle said. That makes it a violation of federal postal lottery statutes.

"Pyramid schemes and chain letters are popular and seem quite innocent. However, it is imperative for Utahns to know that schemes such as these that involve cash are against the law," said Gary Hansen, director of the division.

The chain letter started in the Hill Air Force Base area and has moved to Salt Lake City, Beadle said.