Here is a heads up from the Better Business Bureau to avoid a social media gift exchange that's become popular on Facebook in the past several years.

You may have seen this on a Facebook: the ”Secret Sister" gift exchange among online friends you haven’t met. While it may look like innocent fun, the whole thing is really a pyramid scheme.

The “Secret Sister” gift exchange has been popular campaign quickly became popular for the past four years. You may see Facebook posts promising participants that they will receive up to 36 gifts, in exchange for sending one gift, valued at $10.

The invite asks you to provide your name and address and personal information of a few additional friends and tack this information on to a list that’s already started of people you’ve never met on the Internet. Next, you send a social media invitation to send a modest gift to a stranger along with their friends, family, and contacts.

The cycle continues and you’re left with buying and shipping gifts for unknown individuals, in hopes that the favor is reciprocated by receiving the promised number of gifts in return. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. Just like any other pyramid scheme, it relies on the recruitment of individuals to keep the scam afloat.

Once people stop participating in the gift exchange, the gift supply stops as well.

Pyramid schemes are illegal in the US and are considered a form of gambling. Participants could face jail time, fines or a lawsuit for mail fraud.

The next time someone promises a bounty of gifts or cash by mail, email, or social media, BBB recommends the following:

  • Ignore it! Keep in mind that pyramid schemes are international. Chain letters involving money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal. Stop and ask, is it worth breaking the law? Report it instead to the U.S. Postal inspection Services.
  • Report social media posts. If you receive an invitation to join a pyramid scheme on social media, report it. You can report these Facebook posts by clicking in the upper righthand corner and selecting “Report post” or “report photo.”
  • Never give your personal information to strangers. This will open you up to identity theft and other scams.
  • Be wary of false claims. Some pyramid schemes try to win your confidence by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government. These imposter schemes are false as the government will never endorse illegal activity. No matter what they claim, pyramid schemes will not make you rich. You will receive little to no money back on your “investment” or gift exchange.

Source: Better Business Bureau