Police Warn of "Gift Exchange" Scam on Facebook

Caroline Picard, Zoe Miller
Photo credit: Melpomenem - Getty Images

From Prevention

It's that time of year again when the joy of gift giving gets taken advantage of by certain scammers. Multiple police departments have started warning folks on Facebook about the viral "secret sister gift exchange" scam that's re-appeared on friends' newsfeeds every holiday season since 2015, according to Snopes.

The reposted message claims if you buy a $10 gift and send it to a "secret sister," you will receive anywhere from six to 36 in return by recruiting more people to participate. Last year the gimmick also evolved into a "wine exchange" with a similar premise.



"This is a typical pyramid scheme. This is on Facebook instead of the old way of using letters because social media allows it to spread a lot faster," the Better Business Bureau stated back in 2016. "Pyramid schemes are illegal either by mail or on social media if money or other items of value are requested with assurance of a sizable return for those who participate."

That's right-gift chains actually break the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's gambling and pyramid scheme laws. Not only does participating mean you're committing mail fraud, but it also puts your personal information-like your home address-at risk.

If you see this message floating around your newsfeed, you should ignore it to prevent the spread of this scam. Or better yet, report it to Facebook immediately by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner of the post.

The potential to receive 36 gifts may sound promising but, know this: The chances that you actually receive that many, if any at all, are in fact "mathematically impossible," according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's statement on chain letters.

That's because not everyone who participates follows through on sending gifts to the person at the top of the list, or they may even use different names and addresses to put themselves down multiple times. (It's called a pyramid scheme for a reason!)

This year, you're better off not taking the risk and exchanging gifts the traditional–and thoughtful-way with people you actually know.

('You Might Also Like',)