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The "Secret Sister" Gift Exchange On Facebook Is Very Illegal And Also A Hoax

Merry almost-Christmas, you've been hoaxed.

Originally posted on
Updated on

The game, which is taking over social media, is an online gift exchange called "Secret Sister." It promises that if you buy one gift for a stranger, you in turn will receive as many as 36 gifts back:

Hi ladies! Are you interested in a holiday gift exchange? I don't care where you live, you are welcome to join! I need 6 or more ladies of any age to participate in a Secret Sister gift exchange. You only have to purchase ONE gift valued at $10 or more and send it to ONE secret sister and you will receive 36 gifts in return!!! Let me know if you are interested and I will send the information! Please don't ask to participate if you are not willing to spend the $10 as it would not be fair to the other participant.


According to Snopes, the "Secret Sister" movement is the latest version of a chain letter hoax that has been popping up for years.


Such scams, which are also known as "pyramid schemes," existed long before social media, and used to be conducted through the mail, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

In the past, people would receive a letter (lol I know right?!) asking them to mail a small amount of money to a person at the top of a list. The idea was, eventually your name would be at the top and you would receive a huge return on investment.

But, Paul Krenn, a spokesman for the USPIS, told BuzzFeed News that the hoax just ends up taking your money, in this case in the form of gifts. He said people shouldn't be fooled by people who are posting they have received gifts, as it's impossible for the hoax to deliver what it promises.

"As the gifts start to flow, early entrants may benefit," he said. "However, for everyone to receive what they’ve been promised, each layer of the pyramid must attract new recruits. It’s mathematically impossible to sustain."

He added that mathematically, by the time the hoax got to the 11th round everyone in America would have to be involved in the scheme for it to deliver the gifts it promises.

"The odds are likely greater that Santa Claus, himself, would fly his sleigh into the middle of Times Square to personally distribute the gifts," Krenn said.

Krenn said the scheme not only violates the federal Lottery Statute, it also is against many state laws.

"Many states have anti-pyramid laws on the books that call into question the legality of these activities," he said. "Facebook's rules may also prohibit this type of activity."

The USPIS is also trying to spread the word on Facebook, telling Americans to "beware" of the "scam."

Facebook: Postalinspectors

But if you still want to give a gift, here's an idea. Gather some ~IRL~ friends for an old-fashioned Secret Santa. Easy, fun, and not illegal.