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BBB: "Holiday Wine Bottle Exchange" on Facebook is illegal pyramid scheme

(WSAW)  The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is urging consumers to steer clear of social media posts about gift exchanges that appear to be pyramid schemes.

Th “Holiday Wine Bottle Exchange” is spreading like wildfire, without victims knowing they are breaking the law, and they likely may receive nothing at all.

Social media posts say the sender needs between six and 36 wine lovers to participate in a secret wine bottle exchange.  To get a piece of the action, the posting says "You only have to buy one bottle of wine worth about $15 or more, and send it to another wine lover."  The post then promises participants will "...receive from six to 36 wine bottles in return, depending on how many wine drinkers join."
The pitch is alluring, but is it too good to be true?  You bet, according to the BBB Serving Wisconsin.

"This is reminiscent of chain letters of years past,” stated Jim Temmer, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Wisconsin. “In this case, the online presence spreads quickly and far and wide, raking in undoubtedly significant amounts of money and gifts.  More important, the scheme itself is illegal.”

The people at the top of the pyramid are also looking for personal information, such as your home address.

The Wine Bottle Exchange is similar to the " Secret Sister Gift Exchange” scheme, in which people are urged to send $10 dollars and receive up to 36 gifts in return.

According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, pyramid schemes and gift chains like this are illegal.   

Pyramid schemes are against the law, whether by mail, email or social media channels, especially if the organizers are asking for money or other valuable items, with the assurance of a generous return for those who participate. 

To avoid this scam, the best thing to do is completely ignore it altogether. Do not give out personal information to anyone or share or repost it.

You don’t know who you are sharing your personal information with and you could become the victim of identity theft as a result.

Chain letters via social media and U.S. mail that involve money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal.  If you start a chain letter or send one, you are breaking the law.

Chances are you will receive little or no money back on your "investment." Despite the claims, a chain letter or pyramid scheme will never make you rich. Some chain letters and pyramid schemes try to win your confidence by claiming they're legal and even endorsed by an entity such as the government.

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