BBB scam alert: Social media gift exchange is illegal pyramid scheme

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A “Secret Santa” around the office or with friends can be fun. A gift exchange among online friends you haven’t met is different and carries a heftier consequence. While they look like innocent fun, they are pyramid schemes and illegal.

The “Secret Sister” gift exchange campaign quickly became popular several years ago through Facebook posts promising participants would receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one. Each holiday season, the scheme pops back up. A newer version revolves around exchanging bottles of wine; another suggests purchasing $10 gifts online. You might see references to receiving “happy mail” or doing the exchange “for the good of the sisterhood.” During the 2023 holiday season, be aware of variations that may crop up.

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