Want to join a ‘Secret Sister’ holiday gift exchange? Don’t- it’s a scam!

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NEW ORLEANS – Now that the holidays are here, so are social media posts about a gift “exchange” that promises you’ll receive lots of gifts, and all you have to do is send one.

The posts are popping up around the country, and the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office says – don’t fall for it – it’s a “pyramid scheme.”

According to the LPSO Twitter page, “the first people to join may get several gifts, but the later people get involved, the fewer gifts they’ll receive – if any.”

Here’s an example from a post shared this holiday season:

The idea behind this social media “exchange” is similar to chain letter gift exchanges that were popular in the 1990s, and email chain letters that were common in the early 2000s.

Here’s how the exchange is sold to would-be participants:

1) Send one gift worth at least $10 to secret sister #1 below.

2) Remove secret sister’s name from #1; then move secret sister #2 to that spot.

3) Add your name to #2 with your info.

4) Then send this info to 6 other ladies with the updated name info.

5) You might want to order directly from a web-based service (Amazon, or any other online shop) which saves a trip to the post office. Soon you should receive 36 gifts! What a deal, 36 gifts for giving just one! Be sure to include some information about yourself … some of your favorites. Seldom does anyone drop out because it’s so much fun to send a gift to someone you may or may not know … and of course it’s fun to receive. You should begin receiving gifts in about 2 weeks if you get your letters out to your 6 people right away.

Despite the probability that most participants will never receive the promised avalanche of holiday gifts, it’s also worth noting that this type of social media chain is illegal.

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, chain letters are considered a form of “gambling,” and sending the “gifts” through the mail is a crime.

And the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office has one more warning:  putting personal information online can be a perfect set-up for identity theft.

“As more friends share with their friends, your address will inevitably end up in the hands of people you don’t know.”


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