Scam alert: The ‘Secret Sister' gift exchange has popped up on Facebook again

When the end of the year rolls around, you can always count on three things: holiday music in the stores, packing on a little weight and a Christmas gift exchange either at work or among friends. But if you see something about the latter on Facebook, look out! It just might be a scam.

The “Secret Sister gift exchange” scam has popped again on social media, just in time to capitalize on unsuspecting people in a giving mood.

Have you seen the ‘Secret Sister’ gift exchange post on Facebook? It’s a scam

The bottom line is the “Secret Sister” scam has all the hallmarks of a pyramid scheme. That’s why law enforcement authorities are warning Facebook users not to fall for this old trick.

The way it works is that Facebook users run across a post that says that if they give a single $10 gift, other kind users — up to 36 in all — will contribute scores of other gifts in return.

The scam is prevalent this time of year — so much so that two members of Team Clark say such a post came into their Facebook feed just recently:

Police in Wisconsin and other cities are also warning people not to fall for the scam, because it might be illegal.

Why the ‘Secret Sister’ scam may land you in big trouble

  • It's basically a chain letter: Although it's on social media, it's considered a chain letter, which is a form of gambling. The U.S. Postal Service says this: "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."
  • You're passing along your personal info: In the process of participating in the gift exchange, you are sharing your name and other details, opening yourself up to identity fraud or theft. "If somebody knows it's your birthday and how old you are, when they take your full name and birth date — oh my goodness, there's so much information [online] that becomes available," Money expert Clark Howard says.
  • You're duping your 'Friends': Because people forward these posts to people they know, they can ruin relationships when people realize that you got them involved in a scam. Don't dupe your sister, mother, aunt or any other woman in your life!

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