TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Search on Facebook for “secret sister gift exchange” and you’ll find people posting and re-posting the same message over and over again. The message claims you can buy a gift for $10 or more, add your name to a list and then receive a bounty of 36 gifts. “A lot of friends are doing it, or at least posting about it. Doesn’t sound like a good idea,” Lauren Kidwell said.
Kidwell said “secret sister” sounds a whole lot like a pyramid scam she saw years ago. “You only spend $10, get one gift for someone else. Everybody else sends you one. Doesn’t make sense,” she explained.
University of South Florida mass communications instructor Kelli Burns knows all about the secret sister gift exchange. “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,” she added.
The biggest problem with the post is it’s illegal. United States Post Office regulations are very clear about pyramid schemes, and these gifts are being sent through the mail.
It’s also problematic because your personal information is posted on Facebook. “It’s against Facebook’s terms of agreement. So there’s the potential that Facebook, if they got wind of this, could block your account,” Burns said.
But it’s so enticing, especially when you see your friends doing it, and inviting you to join in. ”The chances of you getting 36 gifts are very slim. And what are you gonna get? A bunch of junk that you probably don’t want anyway,” Burns said.