The stuffing, mashed potatoes and turkey have yet to hit the dinner table and the stockings are far from being hung by the chimney with care, but it’s never too early to warn of a holiday ho-ho-hoax.
Ever since I received a notebook in my second grade Secret Santa swap, gift exchanges have been more of an afterthought to me than the second grade itself. I mean, what kind of twisted person gets a kid a notebook? First off, it’s a notebook. Secondly, it’s a notebook.
I didn’t want a notebook. I didn’t need a notebook. For all I know, someone forgot to buy a gift and raided the school supply closet that morning.
But therein lies the fatal flaw of the Secret Santa endeavor: zero accountability. That notebook-giver lurked behind anonymity and never had to own up to his or her heinous act. He or she could be walking among us now and we wouldn’t know it.
For those who haven’t felt the sting of getting gifted a bunch of pieces of paper, the idea of secretly sending and receiving gifts around Christmas is still worthwhile. In the workplace, in school or among close knit friends, a gift exchange can be a fun way to mix things up around the holidays.
Today, perhaps maybe more than ever, online gift exchanges are sprouting up all over social media.
I noticed someone this week post on Facebook about the “Secret Sister Gift Exchange.” After learning it wasn’t the title of a new-era Nancy Drew mystery book, I discovered the gift exchange was just a Millennial version of the old pyramid scheme.
According to Forbes.com, the scam first appeared in October and has since been picking up steam.
Avoid posts along the lines of these:
“Who is interested in a holiday gift exchange? I need six (or more!) ladies of any age to participate in a secret sister gift exchange,” asks the hoax, which is littered with snowflake and kissy-face emojis and appears to prey on female camaraderie.
“You only have to buy one gift valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister and you will receive 36 in return. What a deal. 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.”
Yeah, don’t be a jerk. There’s no room for those kind of people in a pyramid scheme.
Once you receive the oh-so-amazing secret sister information, you’ll be asked to send a gift (not a notebook) valued at $10 to the person listed at number one on the list, then put secret sister number two in the top spot and enter your name in the number two slot. You’re then instructed to send the information to six additional soon-to-be secret sisters.
If you fall for it, the odds of actually receiving a gift are pretty slim. In fact, the scheme relies on constantly recruiting new participants, making it mathematically impossible to sustain.
What’s the harm in losing $10, you might ask? According to the Better Business Bureau, these schemes are considered forms of gambling, are illegal in the U.S. and Canada and can be punishable by fines and potential jail time. In other words, instead of wearing red and green, you and your secret sisters could be donning orange.
Adding your address and personal information to a running list created to get shared countless times could also prove disastrous and should be avoided.
As always, view things on the Internet through a lens of skepticism. Facebook allows you to report these sort of scams. Use tools like Google and the Better Business Bureau’s website to check into things that don’t sit right with you.
When something seems fishy or too good to be true, odds are it almost always is — even around Christmas.
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL.