Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – Secret Santa is taking social media by storm with a new twist — promising users dozens of free gifts in exchange for one.
Invites for the Secret Sister Gift Exchange are being passed around through Facebook posts asking users to send one gift for only $10 for eventually 36 in return.
Although it seems fun and harmless, it’s a pyramid scheme and is against the law.
“It’s racketeering under the law and punishable by up to a year in prison if you’re caught,” said Managing Partner Donald Kelly, with Tully Rinckey Law Firm.
NewsChannel 9 spoke with Kelli Lemon and Connie McGowen, two women participating, who say they first did it because they thought it was something started by a friend.
“We didn’t even discuss a promise of 36 gifts just a promise to make somebody happy,” said Kelli Lemon.
Combined they’ve received more than 50 presents in the past two weeks since getting involved and are shocked about learning it’s illegal and others calling it a scam.
“You don’t have to do this nobody is putting a gun to your head,” said Lemon.
“Why are they so focused on that when you have all these other things…drugs, prostitution, murder, rape,” said McGowen.
The US Postal Service says it’s a pyramid scheme, and you should not participate.
“We caution folks against becoming involved in these types of events because they are a form of a pyramid scheme. The people at the top of the pyramid benefit the most-and might actually receive the items promised. 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. Avoid the pyramid altogether.”