In addition to running up credit card debt and hearing covers of the same half-dozen songs for weeks on end, the holiday season also affords you the opportunity to be scammed. As always, be overly cautious and suspicious of everyone.
This year, as was also the case in 2015 and 2018, the Better Business Bureau is warning Facebook users to be alert for strangers offering to get you a gift if you pony up $10 (and some personal info). In addition to losing 10 bucks (and some personal info) this offer could also rope you into an illegal pyramid scheme.
This scam has once again been dubbed "Secret Sister," and it's a phony internet-wide gift exchange that falsely claims to be fulfilling the Christmas lists of others. Gullible users are tasked with recruiting "sisters" by promising they could reel in up to 36 gifts if they purchase a gift for $10 for a stranger, give out their name, address, email, and then get more people to join up. If you think that this sounds really, really stupid, and also that the math that doesn't add up then you are not alone, but also this is Facebook we're talking about. Lots of gullible folks on there.
As per the BBB's warning, users don't know who's actually getting gifts or whether strangers will respond in kind. They also don't know what will happen with their personal info, which seems far more alarming than losing $10. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also outlines how this is illegal.
The U.S. Postal Instruction Service says that gift exchanges are illegal gambling and that participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud. Pyramid schemes are illegal, either by mail or on social media, if money or other items of value are requested with assurance of a sizeable return for those who participate."