The Better Business Bureau serving the Atlantic Provinces is reminding consumers that the online “Secret Sister” gift exchange and similar invitations are illegal and should be ignored.
The campaign, which first surfaced significantly in 2015, is once again circulating on social media sites, particularly Facebook.
How it works:
The post states that if you purchase one gift valued at $10 for a stranger, you will receive as many as 36 gifts in return. This type of gift exchange may seem reasonable enough in theory: six friends invite six more friends, who all send gifts to the participant in spot 1 before that person’s name is removed. This process repeats itself with the participant in the #2 spot, and so on. People are encouraged to recruit others to participate in the holiday gift exchange, so the number grows quickly through personal connections on social media.
It seems simple, but there is a big problem with gift chains like “Secret Sister” — they are pyramid schemes. In Canada, pyramid schemes are illegal, whether by mail or on social media, if money or other items of value are solicited with assurance of a sizable return for those who participate.
An additional risk associated with gift exchanges like this lies in sending personal contact information to strangers.
If you receive an invitation to join any pyramid scheme, especially one that involves money or gifts, ignore it. You can report the post to Facebook, without the poster being notified, by clicking on the three little dots in the upper right corner of the post.
For more information, including a notice from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, visit BBB’s warning here.