FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --It seems innocent enough-- a holiday gift exchange called Secret Sister. If you've been on Facebook or Instagram you may have noticed this holiday gift exchange offer. "You only have to buy one gift valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister and you will receive up to 36 in return!"
"It seems to be along the same lines as the Secret Santa except it's with social media. It was posted on Facebook and I just thought, oh well, this looks like fun, and it's coming from a friend who I know very well and it just looked like something that would be interesting to get into," said Mary McCurry, consumer.
But when McCurry mentioned Secret Sister to a co-worker she quickly learned otherwise. "Oh, that's a scam, that is something that, you know, is not legal and you need to not be involved in that."
Fortunately, McCurry never sent anything to anyone involved in the scheme, but she was disappointed. "I thought it was something personal. I had seen that her family and some of our mutual friends had responded to it, so I really thought that this was something just between friends and family."
Postal inspectors said the scam is similar to a chain letter or even a pyramid scheme. Some people may receive gifts, but for everyone to receive what they've been promised new recruits must constantly join the group. It's mathematically impossible to sustain. Postal inspectors said be skeptical about anything you see online. "It's a secret sister gift exchange, you're going to have a great time with your friends doing this. Don't let these schemes play off of your fears and your emotions. Make sure that you do your research first," said Blanca Alvarez, US Postal Inspector.
Postal inspectors said the scheme is illegal in most states and violates federal lottery.