TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Consumer protection experts are warning about a holiday pyramid-scheme already making the rounds on social-media.
They warn the "Secret Sister gift-exchange" is more than too good to be true, it's illegal.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says exchanges like this are considered illegal gambling and participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud.
Pyramid schemes are illegal, by mail or social media, if money or items of value are requested with an assurance of sizeable return for those who participate.
The scheme claims a single gift sent to another "sister" in the group will get six to 36 gifts in return.
Consumer advocate Danielle Kane warns it's dangerous because it almost seems plausible.
Instead, she says it's an elaborate social media scam to trick users into sharing personal information.
Those who participate almost always lose their $10 investments with nothing in return.
She says not to feel bad if you've been fooled, a similar scam has even tricked her.
"You buy one book, you send it to one other girl, and you get ten books back. I had so many friends doing this on my personal feed," she explained, sighing. "It comes in all shapes and sizes, it's not just the 'Secret Sister' one."
Kane encourages folks to warn their friends, especially if they see it get re-posted.
The bureau also wants to know if you've been defrauded.
Kane says folks often decide against calling in scams like these because they only lost $10.
She says the BBB relies on reports from the public through their Scam Tracker service to protect others.