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The latest Facebook foolishness is less like "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" and more like Folly Old Faint Trick-olas.

Less "Jingle Bell Rock" and more Swindle Hell Crock.

Less "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and more Racket the Red-Faced Rip-off.

I'm referring to the innocent-seeming Secret Sister gift exchange on social media that began back in 2015 and has come back like so much insufferable fruitcake. It goes something like this.

Hi ladies! Are you interested in a holiday gift exchange? I don't care where you live, you are welcome to join! I need 6 or more ladies of any age to participate in a Secret Sister gift exchange. You only have to purchase ONE gift valued at $10 or more and send it to ONE secret sister and you will receive 36 gifts in return!!! Let me know if you are interested and I will send the information! Please don't ask to participate if you are not willing to spend the $10 as it would not be fair to the other participant.

One gift yields 36 gifts? I'm not writing for the Style section due to my math mastery, but that sounds like a solid Yuletide investment.

Or is it? Check out this version of the same gift exchange:

You will then receive anywhere from 6 to 36 gifts in return!

Wait, six gifts? What happened to my other 30 gifts? The writer might have known someone would ask that because an emoji-filled guilt-trip follows:

Keep in mind, this is not about what you get, but rather how you can bless someone else!!! It's so much fun being able to spread cheer by sending a gift to a complete stranger, knowing that she would have a bright spot in her day because of what you sent! Let me know if you are interested and I will send you info on your sister. We could ALL use some happy mail instead of the usual bills and junk. Who's in????

Some versions advertise for an online retailer:

Doesn't matter where you live, you are welcome to join. You only have to buy 1 gift at $10 or more and send to your secret sister. (Hello, Amazon!)

Others try to get you drunk ... via Amazon:

Who wants to do a holiday wine exchange?!?! ... You only have to buy ONE bottle of wine valued at $15 or more and send it to ONE secret wine lover. Afterwards, you will receive anywhere from 6 to 36 wine bottles in return!!! It all depends on how many wine drinkers join. ... Amazon ships for free!! (Note: But not to Arkansas, which is not on the list of Amazon Wine States.)

So much for secret sisterhood. It's all a Christmas con, says the "12 Scams of Christmas" article on the Better Business Bureau website (bbb.org): "Purchasing one gift and receiving several in return may sound like a harmless way to give and receive presents, but this seasonal scam is a pyramid scheme, which is illegal."

Details another article on the site: "You might get a message from a friend inviting you to participate in a holiday gift exchange where all you have to do is buy one gift and you'll get 36 in return! This is a pyramid scheme that only works if you are able to recruit six people that are each able to recruit six more people to send you gifts. Pyramid schemes like this are illegal and participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud. Avoid clicking links in these emails because they can compromise your personal information and can put your computer at risk for viruses or malware." (And speaking of information, it's never a great idea giving away your name and address to strangers -- even so-called sisters! -- anyway.)

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (postalinspectors.uspis.gov) classifies such exchanges as chain letters, which are "a form of gambling," and "illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants." And speaking of the postal service, it does not allow shipment of wine or any alcohol. UPS and FedEx do, however it requires a license and meeting a ton of requirements, including adherence to tricky state laws.

Which is just as well. You don't need 36 bottles of wine this season.

And if you do, here's a secret, Secret Sister: It's time to cut way back on the wassailing, put down the the cup of kindness and knock it off on the nog.

I need six or more of you to email:

jchristman@arkansasonline.com

Spin Cycle is a weekly smirk at pop culture.

Style on 12/17/2017

Print Headline: O con, all ye gullible, FB beckons

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