Several of my friends have posted invitations to join this year’s Secret Sister gift exchange. These same invitations flooded my newsfeed last year and honestly, I am amazed to see them back. The friends who are posting these invitations are intelligent people and I want to believe, in the spirit of the holidays, just as much as they do that these are legitimate opportunities for a fun holiday gift exchange. However, these posts leave me thinking of red flags rather than red bows.
If you are considering taking a gamble in the spirit of Christmas, here’s what you need to consider:
- The math doesn’t add up! The post reads like a second grade math problem to me. 1) If Sally sends Mindy one gift, and Mindy sends Noel one gift, and Noel sends Sally one gift, how many gifts does each girl receive? (Answer: 1). 2) If Sally and Noel both send gifts to Mindy and Mindy sends one gift to Sally, how many gifts does Noel receive? (Answer: none). Plainly put, if everyone is sending 1 gift and receiving 36 gifts, where do the extra 35 gifts per person come from?
- The fact that the post says “this is not a scam” tells me that it is probably a scam! Well, that and the fact that searching “gift exchange scam” yields numerous news stories with headlines such as, “Officials Warn About Secret Sister Gift Exchange Scam.” The holidays are a time of joy and giving for many, but for others, it is an opportunity to take advantage of a person’s goodwill. An article published by NBC quoted Lee County Sheriff’s Office fraud specialist Beth Schell saying, “We have issues with fraud and scams year-round, but particularly during the holidays because we’re looking for deals over trying to get a special gift.”
- You are putting yourself at risk for identity theft by sending your personal information to complete strangers! And if you have children, that is all the more reason to resist sending your address to people you do not know.
- Finally, and here’s the part that many don’t realize, it’s illegal! An article published by ABC News reported, “The United States Post Office considers this a chain letter which is a form of gambling.”
The surest way to know the gift exchange you are participating in is legitimate and safe is to organize it with your own friends, family, or co-workers. Sure, you will probably leave a Yankee swap among friends with some Poopauri or Fifty Shades of Chicken, but it’s better than receiving 36 boxes of disappointment for the holidays.