If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s a cautionary tale our mothers have ingrained in us since kindergarten, in hopes that we wouldn’t be bamboozled by a bigger kid on the playground. But in a time where everyone wants to get the most out of the smallest amount of effort, you’d be surprised how often people are fooled by something “too good to be true” everyday.

Case and point: The Secret Sister Gift Exchange.

Here are the steps that users are asked to follow as part of the hoax:

1.) Send one gift value at least $10 to secret sister #1 below.

2.) Remove secret sister’s name from #1; then move secret sister #2 to that spot.

3.) Add your name to #2 with your info.

4.) Then send this info to 6 other ladies with the updated name info

5.) Copy the secret sister request that I posted on my wall, to your own wall. If you cannot complete this within 1 week please notify me, as it isn’t fair to the ladies who have participated and are waiting for their own gifts to arrive. You might want to order directly from a web-based service (Amazon, or any other online shop) which saves a trip to the post office. Soon you should receive 36 gifts! What a deal, 36 gifts for giving just one! Be sure to include some information about yourself … some of your favorites. Seldom does anyone drop out because it’s so much fun to send a gift to someone you may or may not know … and of course it’s fun to receive. You should begin receiving gifts in about 2 weeks if you get your letters out to your 6 people right away.

You’ve probably seen your friends’ posting this on their status, and it seems like a pretty sweet deal. You buy a $10 gift, and get anywhere from 6 or 36 for your effort. 36 presents? Sounds like a score to me.

Too bad this is totally illegal.

You see, the thing about the Secret Sister Gift Exchange is that it’s a new twist on the classic pyramid scheme. For a pyramid scheme to work, participants need to recruit new members. The original member needs to recruit x amount of members to make x amount of dollars, or in this case gifts. So you’d have to be at the top of the pyramid to really be reaping any rewards, and since this hoax has been circulating for at least a year it’s highly unlikely that bottom tier recruits would see many gifts, if any.

According to Buzzfeed, “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.”

Chain letters like these violate Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute, and is punishable by law.

Sharing the post on Facebook also violates the site’s terms of agreement because you have to share a person’s personal information, ie. their home address with strangers in order to participate, and can result in the loss of your account. There’s not a Facebook addict I know that is willing to lose their account over some crappy scented candles.

It’s not just presents that people are peddling. Anything from money, gift cards, and other goods are being offered on these statuses. Over the weekend, I was unfortunate enough to be invited into one of these schemes involving one of my all-time favorite things. Wine. While up to 36 bottles of wine sounds great, in theory, I’m not so into giving out my personal information to strangers to get it.


In short, be smart. Remember that when it comes to social media, nothing is what it seems. Don’t post, don’t share, and treat yourself to some presents you really want.