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Home / Business / BBB warns that illegal 'Secret Sister' gift exchange fraud has reappeared on social media

BBB warns that illegal 'Secret Sister' gift exchange fraud has reappeared on social media




Male hands wrapping Christmas presents with various holiday symbols nearby (Storyblocks)

CLEVELAND (WJW) – The Better Business The Bureau has issued a warning about the return of a social media scam advertised as a gift exchange that promises you will receive between 6 and 36 gifts if you participate.

According to BBB, the so-called "Secret Sister" gift exchange has reappeared on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Reddit.

It has been advertised as a "secret Santa" gift exchange among friends online you have not met. However, the BBB says that while it may look innocent and funny, the "Secret Sister" gift exchange is actually a pyramid scheme and is considered illegal.

The scam quickly became popular in 2015 through Facebook posts promising that participants would receive up to 36 gifts, in exchange for sending a gift, valued at $ 10. Users were encouraged to invite others to participate in the exchange of holiday gifts and then promised that they would receive information on where to send the gifts.

The scheme begins with an invitation that asks you to provide your name and address, as well as the personal information of a few extra friends. You then add this information to an already established list of people you have never met on the Internet. Then send an email or invitation from social media to send a gift to a stranger with their friends, family and contacts.

Here is an example from a post that was shared this holiday:

Courtesy: FOX 8 Viewer [19659010] The BBB says that this cycle continues and that people start buying and sending gifts to people they don't know, in hope to receive gifts in return.

However, this often does not happen, and when people stop taking part in the gift exchange, the gift giving also stops, leaving hundreds of people without promised gifts.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, these gift exchanges are also considered a form of gambling, and participants may face penalties such as jail, fines, or an email fraud lawsuit.

The BBB states that participating in these schemes can be dangerous because you give the alleged "Secret Sister" campaign your personal information, such as a mailing address or an email. With just a few details, cyber thieves can expose you to future scams or commit identity theft.

The BBB recommends the following tips to anyone who thinks they have been targeted by one of these schemes:

  • Ignore it! Remember that pyramid schemes are international. Chain letters that involve money or valuables and promise high returns are illegal. Stop and ask, is it worth breaking the law? Instead, report it to the US Postal Inspection Services.
  • Report social media posts . If you receive an invitation to join a pyramid scheme on social media, you must report it. You can report these Facebook posts by clicking in the upper right corner and selecting "Report Post" or "Report Photo."
  • Never give your personal information to strangers . This will open you up to identity theft and other scams.
  • Beware of false claims . Some pyramid schemes try to win your trust by claiming that they are legal and approved by the government. These projections are false, as the government will never approve illegal activity. Whatever they claim, pyramid schemes won't make you rich. You will get little or no money back on your "investment" or gift exchange.

More scam information is available by visiting BBB Scam Tips and becoming a spokesperson by reporting fraud to BBB Scam Tracker.

The US Postal Inspection Service also provides chain letter information at www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect, or you can call the Postal Inspection Service for free at 1-888-877-7644.

Continuing coverage, here.


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