A Facebook trend that has popped up again this holiday season is a scam, according to the Better Business Bureau.
It’s called the Secret Sister gift exchange and claims if you send one gift valued at $10, you’ll receive 6 to 36 gifts in return.
“Secret Sister is back! This game isn’t a scam. It’s a fun exchange among FRIENDS. I am looking for more ladies interested in a holiday GIFT EXCHANGE. Doesn’t matter where you live – you are welcome to join. You have to buy one gift valued at $10 and send it to your secret sis (Hello, Amazon!). You will then receive 6 to 36 gifts in return. This is so much fun! I love sending a gift to a complete stranger knowing that she will have a bright spot in her day because of what I sent. Let me know if you are interested, and I will send you information about your sister. We could all use some happy mail! Who’s in? I tagged a few who I thought might be interested, but anyone is welcome to join the fun —- just comment “I’m in!”
The post seems harmless enough and when coming from close friends or family, what could possibly go wrong?
Many locals have and are currently participating in the gift exchange and while some have already received gifts, many are warning not to participate.
However, the BBB is warning that not only is the exchange risky, but it is also illegal.
The bureau said gift chains like these are pyramid schemes and are considered illegal gambling. People who participate could be subject to penalties for mail fraud.
Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley is also warning residents of gift exchange due to safety reasons.
“Social media has some value in sharing stories and whatnot with friends or family,” said Hundley. “Unfortunately, it can also serve as the common ground for criminals to find out information about you that can be used to their advantage.”
Hundley explained that there are scammers who are watching and waiting for the right time, right scam or the right idea to obtain something for nothing at your expense.
“Look at it this way, would you walk up (in person) to a crowd of strangers and offer to send anyone a gift and expect others in the crowd to send you one? We feel social media is believable and safe because so many of our friends are on it.”
Here is a list of why you should not share personal information on any social media site, regarding the Secret Sister scam or others.
This is basically a pyramid scheme which is illegal.
- If you want presents delivered, you are going to have to give up an address or e-mail address. That personal information puts a crack in your on-line security for other scam attempts.
- You are going to let the scammer know who your friends are, helpful for implying to others that this is a real deal.
- There is absolutely no guarantee that you will receive any gift, basically, you are gambling.
But for many locals who are participating, they say they are doing it with close friends who they trust.
“I can understand the safety concerns when giving out your address but, personally, I am doing it with close friends and feel safe. If you don’t open it up to strangers and keep it within your circle it can be a fun and generous thing to do,” said Cristie Ford.
Jennifer Hollje said, “I think it’s a lot of fun and definitely not a scam. It’s just like any other secret gift exchange as long as the people you send the info to participate, it works.”
Both ladies did say they are participating with friends and people they know this year.
With so many variances to the secret sister gift exchange and difference of opinions on safety, everyone agrees that if you choose to take part in it, be careful who you share your information with.