"Secret Sister" gift exchange is illegal, BBB warns

MILWAUKEE (WBAY) - An invitation for a gift exchange is making its holiday rounds, and the Better Business Bureau is trying to stay ahead of the tide by warning you: It's illegal.

The BBB warns the "Secret Sister" gift exchange and invitations like it are pyramid schemes.

The idea seems simple: Send a $10 gift to a stranger and invite six friends to join in. Six friends invite six friends, and so on. As a result, each participant can expect as many as 36 gifts -- $360 worth of gifts.

Not only do they fall apart at a certain level, but your personal information may be passed on down the line -- not just to your friends.

The US Postal Service considers gift exchanges illegal gambling and a form of mail fraud. But the BBB says it's illegal whether it's by mail or social media "if money or other items of value are requested with assurance of a sizable return for those who participate."

The Better Business Bureau offers this advice: Ignore the invitation. Don't pass along a chain letter, whether it's mail, email, or a social media message. Report the post to Facebook.

It's better to stick with the Secret Santa at your workplace.

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