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Don’t fall for this gift scam on Facebook

How would you like to receive dozens of gifts for the price of one? Sounds great, right? Maybe even too good to be true. And you would be correct about that, because we’re talking about a scam.

Thanksgiving is over and now it’s time to move on to the next stages of the holiday season. That often involves shopping, and the art of finding the best deals in your gift-giving efforts. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of seasonal scams are back at work, including a gift exchange that’s once again making the rounds on Facebook.

But not only is it too good to be true, it’s also very illegal. Specifically, it’s a pyramid scheme – and police are once again issuing a warning.

A pyramid scheme that promises you dozens of gifts

It sounds simple enough, as this “secret sister” exchange promises 36 gifts for the price of one. It spreads via Facebook posts, and has been doing so off and on since 2015. You can get the gist from the screenshot of this Facebook post below.

Secret Sister Facebook post - pyramid scheme

It works like this: Via standard Facebook update, someone asks six people to participate in the gift exchange. Once that person has their roster, they send a message to their six “recruits” with a list of names. The poster asks them to send a gift that costs at least $10 to the first “secret sister,” meaning the name on top of the list. Those who received the message then move the second person on the list (the name of the person who recruited them) into the top slot and then put their own name in the second spot. After that, they’re supposed to copy and share the public Facebook post to their own profile and ask six people to follow the same steps they just went through. Sure, OK.

Bonus: Yes, Facebook DOES listen in on your private conversations

If you have all six people and they all send gifts like they’re supposed to, you’re to receive up to 36 gifts. And then the other six people go through the same steps and ask others to join them, so they can get 36 gifts, too. And it goes on and on. That’s how a pyramid scheme works – but it only works to a certain point, since you’ll eventually run out of people.

Police: ‘Help stop these scams’

Police are also reminding you that it’s illegal – and again, that it’s not even a new scheme. The post below from a police department in Wisconsin links to a two-year-old Better Business Bureau article discussing the scam.

In the BBB article, the U.S. Postal Inspection Services call the exchanges cases of illegal gambling that could result in penalties for mail fraud. No one wants that. So again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Instead of keeping these types of scams going year after year, stick with what is true – like all the sales during the week of Cyber Monday.

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