Don’t fall for the “Secret Sister” gift exchange again this year — it’s still a hoax.
The faux holiday gift-giving exchange, which first made headlines in 2015, has returned to social media this year.
The exchange calls for people to send one gift (for about $10 to $15) to a stranger. In return, they’ll receive 36 gifts, books or even wine from other strangers, much like a pyramid scheme.
Here’s how the post reads, according to the Deseret News.
“Anyone interested in a secret sister gift exchange? It doesn’t matter where you live! You only have to buy ONE gift valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister! You will 6-36 in return. Let me know if you’re interested and I will send you the information.
(Please don’t ask to participate if you are not willing to spend the $10)”
In 2016, the trend shifted a little bit, becoming something more like a wine exchange, too.
Snopes, a website that checks and verifies fake news reports, first addressed the trend and called it “false.” Similarly, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning in 2016 about "secret sister," calling it a "typical pyramid scheme."
A screenshot of the gift exchange. | Screenshot Instagram
People who participated in the exchange said they didn't mind sending $10, since there's low risk, according to Snopes. But they were upset that they didn't receive any gifts in return.
According to the New York Daily News, the exchange also violates federal law.
"According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service website, chain letters are '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,'" according to New York Daily News.
Indeed, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said that these scams began way before social media existed. People would receive letters in the mail that would ask them to send money to someone else, with the promise of a high return on investment.
Paul Krenn, a spokesman for inspection service, told BuzzFeed that people shouldn’t be fooled by these schemes, because they’re impossible.
Mathematically, he said, it’s impossible for America to keep up with the scheme.
"The odds are likely greater that Santa Claus, himself, would fly his sleigh into the middle of Times Square to personally distribute the gifts," Krenn said.