‘Tis the season for secret Santas and surprise gift giving. It’s also the season for online scams disguised as fun ways to spread holiday cheer. The “Secret Sister” gift exchange is very popular this year, with the promise of each individual participant receiving a deluge of gifts in the mail if they only add their address to a list and mail out one little gift.
This seemingly fun scheme has been around for decades, first by old fashioned snail mail, later by email, and now using social media. As tempting as a mailbox full of candles or chocolates may seem, these gift exchanges are illegal. According to the Better Business Bureau, these are really pyramid schemes that are considered illegal gambling in the eyes of the law.
Anything that relies on the recruitment of individuals to keep the program going is a pyramid scheme, and once the cycle is broken, someone is left with an empty mailbox and disappointment.
If you are asked to join a gift exchange program that relies on recruitment and sending a gift to strangers, you are asked to report it, either on social media or directly to the Better Business Bureau. Participants are actually subject to prosecution for mail fraud if the postal service is involved. If you really want to send a gift to a stranger, there are a multitude of local charities that would love to be the object of your generosity.
Reporting for WGRT, Karly Hurley.