Beware: BBB cautions online “Holiday Wine Gift Exchange” is an illegal scam

Wines wait to be tasted at the 'International Wine Challenge' event at Lords Cricket ground on April 16, 2012 in London, England. Judges will taste over 10,000 bottles of wine from across the globe, with wines in each category winning either Gold, Silver, Bronze or Commended in the biggest and most important event of its kind in the world. Wines awarded with Gold Medals then go on to be re-tasted in the Trophy Round to decide which may be awarded Champion status. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE — You may have seen it pop up on your news feed — social media posts about gift exchanges that are actually too good to be true. The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is urging consumers to steer clear of these posts as they are pyramid schemes.

An example on Facebook, the “Holiday Wine Bottle Exchange” that’s spreading like wildfire, without victims knowing they are breaking the law and they likely may not receive anything at all.

The 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.”

Although the pitch is alluring, it’s too good to be true — according to the BBB Serving Wisconsin.

“This is reminiscent of chain letters of years past,” said 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.”

Another thing to be aware of in these posts, the people at the top of pyramid are also looking for personal information, such as your address.

The BBB says the Wine Bottle Exchange is similar to the “Secret Sister Gift Exchange” scheme, in which people are urged to send $10 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.

BBB cautions: Beware.