It may seem like a fun idea to give to and receive gifts from total strangers, but experts say the act is unsafe and possibly even illegal.
The “Secret Sister” post that’s making the rounds on Facebook is apparently just another scam that puts your personal information, such as your address and credit card number, at risk. It claims that if you send out a gift valued at $10 or more through the mail, you’ll get up to 36 gifts in return.
The post asks interested participants to send a private message to get full instructions, which typically includes a list of names. You’re expected to send a gift to the first person on the list and then share the list with six other women, inviting them to join in on the fun.
But that “fun” isn’t necessarily what it appears to be.
“You’re putting your personal information in someone else’s hands,” said Cynthia Augello, a lawyer who specializes in cybersecurity, told the NY Daily News.
Apart from dispensing private information to unknown individuals, one risks receiving an unexpected, not-so-nice gift in your mailbox.
“I think it lends itself to potential other issues, like if someone is into sending dangerous things in the mail,” Augello noted, adding that the exchange could even be against the law.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service website claims that chain letters are “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.”