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Your yearly reminder to not fall for the Secret Sister gift exchange program

The faux holiday gift-giving exchange “Secret Sister” has returned to social media this year. The hoax trend first made headlines back in 2015.
The faux holiday gift-giving exchange “Secret Sister” has returned to social media this year. The hoax trend first made headlines back in 2015.
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SALT LAKE CITY — The Secret Sister program is back again this holiday season. Police have already issued warnings against it.

What’s happening: For several years, Facebook users have noticed a social media post pop up on their feeds that calls for a gift exchange between friends. Don’t fall for it — it’s a scam.

What it says: The scam is a Facebook post that asks you to buy a gift for $10 or more. People are then asked to put their name on a list.

  • The scam then promises 36 gifts total because your friends will add a gift to the exchange.

Here’s how the post reads:

  • “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 get 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).”

Warnings: Multiple organizations and people have issued warnings about the scam.

  • Fact-checking website Snopes.com reported that the exchange is “false.”
  • The Better Business Bureau issued a warning against the scam, calling it a “typical pyramid scheme.”
  • University of South Florida mass communications instructor Kelli Burns told KLRT-TV that it’s a constant scam.
  • “I’ve seen it on Facebook. A couple of my friends are participating,” Burns said.“This is a typical pyramid scheme. We’re just seeing this on Facebook this time instead of the old way of using letters, and Facebook allows it to spread a lot faster.”
  • Paul Krenn, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, told BuzzFeed News the exchange is too impossible to keep up with.
  • "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.

Illegal: The U.S. Postal Inspection service says chain letters are considered “'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.”

Read more: Don't fall for the 'Secret Sister' gift exchange. It's totally illegal.