Something fishy called the “Secret Sister” game has been going around Facebook feeds and other social media sites. You might have seen it on yours. It goes something like this:
Photo from Buzzfeed/Instagram
It reads: “Who is interested in a holiday gift exchange? It doesn’t matter where you live, you are welcome to join! I need 6 (or more!) ladies of any age to participate in a secret sister gift exchange! You only have to buy one valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister and you will receive 36 in return! Comment and let me know if you are interested and I will send you the info! Please don’t ask to participate if you are not willing to spend the $10! ‘TIS THE SEASON! and it’s getting closer!”
Some posts ask for books instead of gifts. Others involve food. But the principle is the same: give one, get 36 back.
Giving one gift away and receiving 36 sounds too good to be true. That’s because it is. The “Secret Sister” exchange gift is in fact a variation of the pyramid scam. Those who don’t know this will be quick to jump into the game, of course, because first, the offer in itself is too good to pass up and second, if the post was made by a friend on Facebook people are more likely to trust it.
What the post above, posted by a friend on social media (let’s call her Lady A), doesn’t say is that the person tricked into giving the gift (let’s call her Lady B) also has to recruit 6 people to join in. Lady B isn’t the only person who has swayed by Lady A. Lady A also has Lady C, Lady D, Lady E, Lady F and Lady G; 6 people in all. These 6 people have to each sway 6 people to join, totaling to 36 people. These 36 people will give their one gift to Lady A, here is the promise the post makes of getting an abundance of gifts in return.
In order to receive those 36 gifts that were promised, numerous other people have to be recruited into the game. The plausibility of actually garnering all 36 returns for your 1 payment is in actuality very slim and highly unlikely. Of the numerous people who have joined the Secret Sister on your Facebook page. How many have actually received 36 gifts? We’re betting none of them have.
The only ones who essentially benefit from the Secret Sister game are the small number of people on the very top of the pyramid, the ones who started it in the first place. That’s why it’s called a scam.
Pyramid scams are illegal, as dictated by Republic Act No. 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines. They’re illegal because the Pyramid scheme is basically a form of gambling, it’s a game with no real promises.
Pyramid scams and their different variations have been around for quite some time now, only now we’re seeing them on social media too. “Facebook allows it to spread a lot faster,” Kelli Burns, a mass communications instructor from the University of South Florida in the U.S. told WFLA.
Christmas Secret Santa Exchange Gifts are fun to play with family, close friends and coworkers too. Pyramid scams, on the other hand, are not fun. They’re also illegal.
Sources: Nov. 2, 2015. "Secret Sisters Gift Exchange." snopes.com Nov. 10, 2015. "The “Secret Sister” Gift Exchange On Facebook Is Very Illegal And Also A Hoax" buzzfeed.com