The Better Business Bureau is warning social media users not to buy into a viral gift exchange program that has begun its seasonal circulation on networks like Facebook. The secret sister gift exchange program, which lets users participate in a program that promises dozens of gifts to come flooding into your mailbox from strangers on the internet, is just another cleverly hidden pyramid scheme.
The program seems innocent enough. Users buy into a gift exchange program buy sending a $10 gift to a stranger assigned to them upon sign up. In return for the single $10 gift and having to give up their personal information, the user is promised dozens of gifts in return. On the surface it seems as if the worst the program could be is wasteful, but the reality is that you put yourself and your personal information at risk by participating in the scam. Plus, by posting the scheme to your Facebook status you expose yourself as having participated in the illegal scheme in the first place.
This isn’t the first time that sneaky pyramid schemes have circulated the web. The secret sister gift exchange makes its annual rounds on social media, while other exchange programs promise things like books to users that opt to mail one book out to a stranger for dozens in return. Not only are these programs considered a pyramid scheme, but they could also land you in some deep trouble for mail fraud as it requires users to invest a single package in exchange for potentially dozens in return.
Multi-Level Marketing Schemes Have Flourished In The Digital Age
It’s no secret that multi-level marketing schemes have managed to grow out of control in the social media era. Programs like Advocare, Mary Kay, and even Verve Energy (a mlm scheme that targeted college students back in 2012) have been prosecuted as pyramid schemes in recent years, targeting women and teens to do the dirty work.
These schemes are illegal because they require people to buy into a type of gambling that rarely results in anything but more work for everyone but a select few on top. Pyramid schemes like the secret sister gift exchange require more people to share the scheme in order for it to keep going, but participants are often left buying gifts for strangers with little return.
Generally the Better Business Bureau warns consumers to be wary of anything that requires them to share personal information with a stranger. This information includes things like bank information, addresses, phone numbers, emails, or even credit card and social security information.
If a viral social media trend asks you to share personal information or buy into a program, its likely that the program has malicious intent or may be illegal.