VERIFY: 'Secret Sister' gift exchanges are illegal and not legit -

VERIFY: 'Secret Sister' gift exchanges are illegal and not legit -

VERIFY: 'Secret Sister' gift exchanges are illegal and not legit -

Posted: 20 Nov 2020 01:56 PM PST

The Better Business Bureau and other experts say gift exchanges like these are scams and considered illegal pyramid schemes.


Are "Secret Sister" gift exchanges legitimate? 

No. Authorities say gift exchanges like these are not legit and are considered illegal pyramid schemes.

United States Postal Inspection Service

Better Business Bureau

Federal Trade Commission

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

"Secret Sister" holiday gift exchange posts are once again circulating online. The post typically says, "I'm looking for 6 or more ladies interested in a holiday gift exchange. You have to buy one gift and you get 6-36 gifts in return."

Kelsey Coleman, the Director of Communications for the Better Business Bureau in D.C., said the BBB is warning people that these types of gift exchanges are typically scams, and can turn dangerous. 

"When you share your personal information with who you think is just your friend, she may be sharing it with a much larger network of people that you don't know," Coleman said. "And you may never get a gift in return. Keep in mind that these kinds of gift exchanges are classified as pyramid schemes, and they're illegal."

"Secret Sister" gift exchanges have been on the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) radar since at least 2015.

"These posts are just like any other chain letter that asks for money or items of value," The FTC said. "They're against the law."

The consumer protection agency added that people should not send money or gifts to strangers, and should avoid reposting chain letters. 

When Verify researchers checked the Postal Inspection Service's Facebook page and website, they say this type of deal is "a form of pyramid scheme." 

USPIS said they typically violate the "Lottery Statute" of U.S. code laws because they contain all three elements of a lottery:

  1. Prize – or in this case a gift
  2. Chance – you're relying on others to participate
  3. Consideration – the price to join in

The agency said while some at the top may get gifts, it's "mathematically impossible to sustain."

On its webpage, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) explains in an infographic why "all pyramid schemes are destined to collapse." 

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According to the SEC, here's how a typical pyramid scheme works: 

One person recruits six people. Each of those six participants must recruit six new people in order for everyone to get what was promised.

In this example, that would mean gifts.

At level six, the SEC says you'd need more than 46,000 participants for everyone to get six gifts.

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At the ninth level, you'd need more than 10 million participants. And at the eleventh level, the SEC says everyone in the United States would have to be participating in order for everyone to get what was promised, which is six gifts.

So, we can Verify that experts and authorities say gift exchanges like these are not legitimate and are considered illegal pyramid schemes.

Gab's New CTO Is a Former Facebook Software Engineer - VICE

Posted: 20 Nov 2020 06:00 AM PST


Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies remotely at a recent Senate Judiciary Committee. (Photo by Hannah McKay-Pool/Getty Images)

In an email to its users, Gab, the social network well-known as a safe haven for neo-Nazis and the far right, announced that its newest CTO is a former software engineer who spent more than seven years at Facebook.

"Gab is happy to introduce our new CTO, Fosco Marotto," said the statement from the company, released earlier this week. "With 23 years of industry experience, he brings extensive backend infrastructure knowledge and insights from across the stack that will help Gab scale into the new media giant it is quickly becoming."

The news that Marotto, who worked as a "production engineer and developer advocate" at Facebook, is joining Gab and bringing the expertise of an industry leader to a fringe app illustrates how right-wing social media companies can attract people from the same talent pools the Silicon Valley giants draw from. It also shows how companies like Gab are trying to professionalize at a time when conservative media pundits and President Trump himself are clamoring for alternatives to services like Twitter and Facebook, which they claim discriminate against the right.

Despite the popular narrative that Silicon Valley companies are dominated by liberals, there are people with further right viewpoints in important positions. Marotto was a key member of a team who developed Parse, a backend toolkit for mobile developers that has gone open source and is used to develop apps. Marotto presented Parse at Facebook's F8 conference in 2015.

Marotto already helped develop Gab's "free-speech web browser" Dissenter, and by his own admission has maintained direct links to the company for years, while he was employed at Facebook.

"I've been in chat rooms with the Gab team for years," he said in a Gab post that he made to dispel suspicion from users of the platform who learned of his background at Facebook. "When the Mozilla and Chrome web stores kicked the dissenter extension off the stores, I was the one who built and shipped (the) Dissenter browser on all 3 platforms, in my spare time." 

"I believe in Gab," he continued. "We must protect and defend free speech and build free speech software and services."

Facebook has yet to respond to a request for comment about Marotto's time at the company.

Gab presents itself as a service "that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information." Putting these unobjectionable ideals into practice, though, has largely involved helping the extreme far right online, facilitating its growth—and the company's—by providing it a readily accessible platform. This is not simply a matter of providing a place where people can express controversial opinions: Two neo-Nazi groups, the Base and Atowwaffen Division, that are under an intense FBI crackdown and are connected to terrorist activities, have actively used Gab as a recruitment platform.

Before opening fire and killing 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, domestic terrorist Robert Bowers used his Gab profile to post something of a manifesto to other users: "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in." The association with Bowers and the shooting led to a slew of companies cutting ties with Gab, but it's again gaining momentum as the recent backlash against mainstream social media services grows.


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