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Read this before you participate in the 'Secret Sister' gift exchange
The online gift exchange "Secret Sister" has made rounds on social media, promising participants to receive up to 36 gifts for pitching in $10. Here's what makes it both illegal and a hoax. - photo by Payton Davis
A gift exchange making the rounds on social media since October boasts the chance of participants receiving up to 36 gifts just for purchasing one.

But posts in regards to the "Secret Sister" exchange aren't so transparent about a few details, Stephanie McNeal wrote for BuzzFeed: It's a scam and illegal. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service indicated the gift swap is a "pyramid scheme."

Most people involved will shell out cash in the form of gifts, but "it's impossible for the hoax to deliver what it promises," USPIS spokesman Paul Krenn told BuzzFeed.

"As gifts start to flow, early entrants may benefit," BuzzFeed quoted Krenn as saying. "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."

According to BuzzFeed, Krenn added by the 11th round of "Secret Sister," everyone in America would have to take part in the scheme for its gift promises to come to fruition.

Just in the third round, 1,296 people would be involved, Doug Bolton wrote for The Independent. That would swell to 60 million participants at the 10th stage of the exchange.

Kimberly Truong wrote for Mashable of the "Secret Santa"-style exchange's process.

Through social media, six participants invite six new participants, who send gifts to the person at the top of the list, Mashable's piece read. The first person's name is then removed and the process continues with the second person listed.

The whole thing sounds "feasible enough in theory," but Mashable noted a few catches.

First, participants must disclose questionable details.

" ... (Y)ou have to divulge personal information like home addresses in order to receive said gifts, running the risk that someone could send you a not-so-nice gift in the mailbox," according to Mashable.

"Secret Sister" is also against federal regulations, Keri Blakinger wrote for New York Daily News.

"According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service website, chain letters are 'illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute,'" according to New York Daily News.

Facebook fantatics should beware, too, Jennifer O'Neill wrote for Yahoo News: Calling for personal information on the site breaks Facebook's terms of agreement. Along with legal implications, participants' accounts might be blocked.

Some individuals have claimed to receive a single gift, but none "reported the avalanche of $10 trinkets arriving at their doors," Kim LaCapria wrote for Snopes.

"Had such a plan ever borne fruit, accounts of such success mysteriously remained virtually nonexistent," Snopes' piece reads.

According to Snopes, people who wish to get in both the receiving and giving spirit should take part in a traditional Secret Santa exchange. Fewer issues exist there because it's about sending and getting one present rather than 36.
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