Why this secret holiday gift exchange is illegal

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - Secret Santa is a popular gift exchange during the holidays, where you buy one secret gift for a friend, in exchange for another. But one game has taken it to the next level.

The secret sister gift exchange is making its way around Facebook. According to public posts, all you have to do is buy a $10 gift, send it to one person, and you could receive 36 gifts in return. The US Postal Service says to be wary of something like this.

"I would be suspect of a situation like that and I would admonish people to be leery of these kinds of situations. Usually you're not gonna get, you'll probably throw your gift money away and end up in some kind of scheme or kind of scam, somebody who's trying to profit on other people's good will,” said US Postal Inspector Darin Solmon.

Solmon says something like this is risky. But the secret sister gift exchange is more than just a possible scam... It's illegal.

Why is something like this illegal? Chain letters are essentially a form of gambling, and when sent through the mail, it violates the postal lottery statute.

"In our investigations that we've seen, you're intending to put in a little to gain more. And the postal service doesn't want to further any unlawful activities because it is an interstate and intrastate delivery service and so the postal service does not like to get involved in those types of situations,” said Solmon.

Under the postal lottery statute, chain letters are illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants.

"I’d ask people to just keep their charity close to home, participate in things that are bonafide and lawful,” said Solmon.

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