Has a Facebook friend invited you to be part of a Secret Sister Gift Exchange? Before you happily sign up, you should know a couple things...

The premise goes something like this:

With all the negativity around us, let's create some positivity over the next few weeks leading up to the holidays! Anyone interested in a holiday gift exchange? It doesn't matter where you live, you are welcome to join. I need at least 6 (or more!!) ladies of any age to participate in a secret sister gift exchange. You only have to buy ONE gift valued at $10 or more and send it to ONE secret sister. Afterwards, you will receive between 6 and 36 gifts in return!! It all depends how many ladies join. Let me know if you are interested and I will send you the information!
Comment below if you're interested and I'll send you the details!
My friend did this last year and received so many gifts!!

Sounds great, doesn't it? So festive! Plus, you send out one $10 gift and get up to 36 of them back? Sounds too good to be true!

When you sign up to participate, you're given a list of two names and addresses. You are told to send your gift to the person in the #1 slot and remove their name from the list.You then move the #2 person up to the #1 spot, and add your name and address to the #2 spot, then send it off to six new participants.

Unfortunately, as with all pyramid schemes...eventually you will run out of participants, which means unless you get in on things early, you may not get any return on your investment.

The second problem? This kind of exchange is considered a chain letter, and is illegal.

From the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (the law enforcement arm of the Post Office):

[Chain letters are] illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail ... violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.

So a secret sister gift exchange might be a nice thought, but you're better off just exchanging gifts with your friends directly, or organizing a Secret Santa/White Elephant exchange where everyone is guaranteed a gift of some kind.

 

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