HONOLULU (KHON2) — Online book exchanges are a trend on social media where friends encourage others to send a book to a stranger and in return, they will get 36 books from people around the globe.

The Better Business Bureau says these exchanges seem fun, but they are actually an illegal pyramid scheme.

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The offer to join an online book exchange comes with the promise of new reading material and it might even come from a trusted friend.

“You will send it to your friends and they’ll send it to their friends and the idea is you’ll receive all these books, but that is not what happens,” said BBB Hawaii marketplace manager Roseann Freitas. “You don’t know who they’re sending it to and who they’re sending it to. And that’s the problem, you don’t know where your information will land.”

A name and address need to be provided to join the scheme, then the new recruit will be assigned to send a book to someone who has already joined. But a problem arrises if the new recruit does not get anyone else to join or if someone along the chain does not hold up their end of the bargain.

“And you’ve sent it to your friends, but maybe some of them do it and maybe some of them don’t,” Freitas said, “and that’s where it starts to break down because you’re not recruiting the people you need. And that’s why it will maybe work in the beginning for some, but as it trickles on, it will get less effective.”

This pyramid scheme still gets a hold of the new recruit’s name and address even though their financial and credit card information are not at stake.

“And we do know with your name and your address, they can find out things about you and start to steal your identity,” Freitas said.

If a friend or coworker is promoting this type of book exchange, ask them to stop or report their post to the social media platform. Other tips for avoiding these pyramid schemes include ignoring plays on emotions — Fear of missing out or “brightening someone’s day are just attempts at luring you in.

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Click here for more tips from the BBB on avoiding illegal book exchange pyramid schemes.