If successful, the end result is the same. A few people at the top of the pyramid will receive hundreds of gifts that they can either keep or resell for cash while most participants end up with nothing.
Chain letter, pyramid scheme or gateway to identity theft, this is one holiday tradition you would be wise to avoid according to the Better Business Bureau and the Police.
From Post Office Plague to Social Media Manipulation
Back in the good old days chain letters such as the Secret Sister relied on the hopes and dreams of unwitting participants and the US Postal service. Today, the hopes and dreams are still required but the Post Office has been replaced by Facebook.
More Than Disappointing, It’s Illegal
Ok, so perhaps the prospect of spending $10 on a gift on the off-chance that the Secret Sister post you received from a relative or friend is “legit” holds some appeal and not a lot of downside. Well, that’s where you could be wrong. According to the US Postal Service:
There’s at least one problem with chain letters. They’re 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. (Chain letters that ask for items of minor value, like picture postcards or recipes, may be mailed, since such items are not things of value within the meaning of the law.)
While the chance that your participation in a Secret Sister chain letter or chain post as it were will lead to any serious run ins with the law is pretty slim, perhaps even less likely than your actually receiving a gift, it’s noteworthy that the US Postal Inspection Service dedicates an entire page to chain letters!
Tis Better to Give Than Receive
Perhaps the real lesson here is that giving and sharing with others is what makes the Holiday Season so special. So go ahead and find ways to give to others that don’t involve a Secret Sister or similar chain concept and share and enrich the lives of friends, family and even complete strangers.