Better Business Bureau warns of "Secret Sister" scam

Better Business Bureau warns of "Secret Sister" scam

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As the scam starts to resurface again, the Better Business Bureau has issued a waring on the popular "Secret Sister" gift exchange that has popped up on Facebook and Reddit. 

The scam is advertised as a Secret Santa type exchange among strangers and states that if you participate by sending one $10 gift you could receive between 6 and 36 gifts of your own. 

However, the BBB says this is a pyramid scheme designed to take personal information from you and the friends you recruit to be a part of the exchange. 

"The scheme starts with a convincing invitation, either by email or social media to sign up for what seems like a great, fun program. All you must do is provide your name and address and personal information of a few additional friends, and tack this information on to a list that’s already started of people you’ve never met on the Internet. Next, it’s your turn to send an email or social media invitation to send a modest gift to a stranger along with their friends, family and contacts," the BBB says on its website. "The cycle continues and you’re left with buying and shipping gifts for unknown individuals, in hopes that the favor is reciprocated by receiving the promised number of gifts in return. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. Just like any other pyramid scheme, it relies on the recruitment of individuals to keep the scam afloat. Once people stop participating in the gift exchange, the gift supply stops as well, and leaves hundreds of disappointed people without their promised gifts."

The scam became popular in 2015. 

The BBB recommends recommends the following if you come across "Secret Sister" posts. 

  • Ignore it - Keep in mind that pyramid schemes are international. Chain letters involving money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal. Stop and ask, is it worth breaking the law? Report it instead to the U.S. Postal inspection Services.
  • Report social media posts. If you receive an invitation to join a pyramid scheme on social media, report it. You can report these Facebook posts by clicking in the upper righthand 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.
  • Be wary of false claims. Some pyramid schemes try to win your confidence by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government. These imposter schemes are false as the government will never endorse illegal activity. No matter what they claim, pyramid schemes will not make you rich. You will receive little to no money back on your “investment” or gift exchange.

More information on all scams is available by visiting BBB Scam Tips.

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