It IS too good to be true
You may have seen some posts on Facebook that are promoting a “Secret Holiday Wine Exchange” lately. The person making the post or sharing it claims that all you have to do is buy a $12-$15 bottle of wine and ship it to someone whose name and address has been provided to you. In exchange, you’ll be rewarded with a few or over a dozen bottles.
While this sounds like a great deal, you’ll be much better off just buying your own bottles and handing them out to people you know. The United States Postal Inspection Service and Better Business Bureau are warning good-intentioned people that they’re buying into a scam that won’t give them back their investment.
The Facebook post that you may have seen already starts off something like this:
“Secret Holiday WINE exchange!! Who wants to participate this year? It doesn’t matter where you live – you are welcome to join. I need 6 (or more) people of legal age to participate in a holiday wine exchange. Buy ONE bottle of wine valued at at least $12 and send it to one secret person (I will PM you the name/address) and you will receive 6-36 in return! Let me know if you are interested and I will PM you the information.”
This wine exchange is eerily similar to the “Secret Sister Gift Exchange” that took place on Facebook in years past. It was the cause of so much strife for people that the Better Business Bureau was contacted about it, and they had to investigate what was really going on.
The BBB concluded that these types of gift exchanges that promise a small buy-in for a huge pay-off are nothing but “illegal pyramid schemes.”
No Gifts Exchanged
The BBB stated about the fraud, “This type of gift exchange may seem reasonable enough in theory: six friends invite six more friends, who all send gifts to the participant in spot 1 before that person’s named is removed. This process repeats itself with the participant in the 2 spot, and so on.”
In order to participate, you have to give up your personal information like your phone number and home address. The BBB believes that you will receive either one gift back or none. The latter is the most likely scenario. They concluded, “Despite the claims, a chain letter will never make you rich.”
Even the fact-checking website Snopes investigated the claims of receiving tons of gifts for one.
“It’s worth noting that amid the myriad enticements for such initiatives on social media, many users expressed committed to the exchanges. While a handful of individuals claimed to have received a single gift, none reported an avalanche of $10 trinkets arriving at their doors,” they deduced through their investigation.
Don’t Do It
The BBB and USPIS have warned that the purchased wine won’t actually go to some expecting a gift, it will go to the scammers who will be collecting wine from all of their pawns in order to resell it for a huge profit. The scammers will also have personal information about you so that they can target you in different schemes.
People have reported seeing their friends and family get taken in by the chain letter, and the exchanges range from children’s books to beauty products. Though some people swear by the exchange, most aren’t convinced.
Redditor corinthian_llama explained, “It’s a chain ‘letter’ scam. The early participants may receive a bunch of gifts. The later ones are out of luck. These traditionally promise bad luck if you ‘break the chain’ to scare people into sending out multiple copies to people they know.”
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