Why that gift exchange on Facebook could be a scam and is illegal

*Better Business Bureau is again getting reports of these posts on Facebook. BBB reminds everyone that while it may sound like a great idea, these types of exchanges can be scams and are illegal.*

Social Media

From Secret Sister to a wine exchange, that gift exchange on Facebook seems too good to be true. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York says that while it may be tempting to jump in, it could lead to you getting scammed and at the end of the day, it is illegal.

Here’s what you might see on your Facebook feed:

A new twist to the "Secret Sister" gift scam is wine.

A new twist to the “Secret Sister” gift scam is wine.

Or this, the original post:

This is a pyramid scheme, which is illegal.

This is a pyramid scheme, which is illegal.

BBB did the research and according to the New York State Attorney General’s office, a pyramid scheme is “a fraudulent system of making money based on recruiting an ever-increasing number of  ‘investors,'” in this case, ‘sisters’ or ‘wine drinkers’ who recruit more people to participate.

Why it is illegal

This “gift exchange” is a twist on the old chain letter. Chain letters would come to your house, tell you to send a certain amount of money to the person at the top of the list, cross them off, then add your name to the bottom and send it along.  According to the United States Postal Service:  “Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by the computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.”


  • Ignore the scam if it appears on your Facebook feed.

  • Never give out personal information to someone you don’t know.

  • Remember that participating is in fact, breaking the law.

  • Keep in mind that pyramid schemes do not work – not even when they are promoted by Facebook friends.

If you ever have a question about something you see on social media, feel free to call BBB at 800-828-5000 or check out BBB’s Scam Tracker. 




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