Gift exchange of "Secret Sister" is a scam, warns the Better Business Bureau

"Secret Sister," an Internet-driven gift exchange that allows users to fulfill each other's Christmas lists, is an illegal scam that could jeopardize personal information, the consumer watchdog said.

The concept is harmless enough: Facebook users recruit "sisters" with the promise that they could receive up to 36 gifts – as long as they buy a $ 10 gift to a stranger on the Internet, provide their name, address and email, and Recruit some more friends to join, said the BBB.

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But users often do not know who they are buying gifts for or whether the internet strangers will benefit. . And they don't know what these strangers want to do with their personal information, which could open them to breaches of network security, BBB said.

Like any pyramid game, this thrives on continuing to recruit – the larger the pool of participants, the longer it will continue to run. But when the users stop joining, the gifts stop flowing and all the gift cards waiting for their gifts are disappointed.

How to Avoid a Scheme

Some pyramid schemes are masquerading as legitimate multi-level marketing companies, which also depend on continued recruitment with often minimal returns. The biggest difference, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is that pyramid schemes are in violation of the law.

Don't trust strangers on the internet with your personal information, BBB advises. If it is necessary to provide email and addresses to participate in a gift exchange, continue browsing.

If a business is recruiting, not selling a real product or service and promising high returns in a short period of time, it could be a pyramid scheme, says the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Some are less formal than others, such as "Secret Sister", and can take shape on social media, online ads or YouTube videos.

Some schemes claim that they are supported by the government. They are not, says the BBB, because they are illegal. And more than likely, they will not do anything about their promise because all pyramid schemes eventually run out of participants and fail.

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