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Social Media Users Targeted by Gift Exchange Hoax

2 years 10 months 1 week ago Monday, December 11 2017 Dec 11, 2017 December 11, 2017 5:58 PM December 11, 2017 in News

WESLACO – The Better Business Bureau says two holiday schemes are back with a vengeance this season.

The "secret sister" and "holiday wine exchange" posts seem like harmless fun, but they can land you in big trouble.

The illegal games can get you kicked off Facebook, commit mail fraud and even land you behind bars. The way it works is you tag six friends, then they tag six friends and so on. Soon, you have a digital chain letter.

These posts are something Diana Valverde says she's very familiar with.

"I have seen them come across my Facebook feed. I do have a few girlfriends that are participating in that," she said.

Valverde says she's been tagged in several of these posts.

"I didn't participate only because you just never know who you're gonna get or who is gonna get you if they're going to follow through with things like that."

Valverde says they seem harmless. However, the BBB says what may seem like harmless fun is actually illegal.

"What's going around is the sister exchange and the wine exchange, so they're basically the same. One asks for the gift the other one asks for the wine bottle," said Sandra Morin, director of Bureau Affairs with the Better Business Bureau.

She says it's illegal to even participate in the post.

"It is illegal. It's a pyramid scheme or a multilevel scheme what we call it," said Morin. "You hope to get six to thirty-six in return, but it is a multilevel marketing scheme and you should not participate."

She says most of the time people who participate in something like this won't receive anything in return.

"A lot of people want something for nothing and that's where the scam takes off like wildfire," explained Morin.

It's not just the fact that it's a pyramid scheme that makes it illegal. Facebook's terms and conditions frown upon it as well.

"Facebook could block you if you forward those (posts) because part of their terms of service is that you do not participate in a multilevel scheme," said Morin.

She says the posts are also not mathematically sustainable and you could also be committing mail fraud.

The U.S. Postal service says if the package involves money or a valuable item with the promise of a big return it makes it illegal.

"Avoid the situation if you can," urged Morin.

Morin says the best thing you can do is to just block the post.

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