Beware of 'Wine Bottle,' 'Secret Sister' gift exchanges

BBB cautions they are illegal pyramid schemes

SAN ANTONIO – It's the season for gifts, but the Better Business Bureau is cautioning people about a couple of gift exchanges circulating again on Facebook, calling them illegal pyramid schemes.

One beckons wine lovers to participate in the "wine bottle exchange," which is a different version of the "secret sister gift exchange." 

"It's a little bit different than your office gift exchange or white elephant," said Miguel Segura, a BBB spokesman.

The idea is you buy one bottle of wine or one gift for someone and you supposedly receive as many as 36 in return. Basically, you tag six friends who also tag six friends and so on. It's a sort of digital chain letter, and the BBB warns it is illegal.

"These games are a traditional pyramid scheme, which are founded on the premise of recruiting more and more people," Segura said. "At the end of the day, it's mathematically impossible to keep sustainable, so people will lose at this."

According to the U.S. Postal Service, participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud.

Participants may also be giving their personal information, such as their address, to strangers.

The BBB advises people to ignore the offers and exchange gifts the old-fashioned way.

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