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BBB Warns That Illegal Secret Sister Gift Fraud Is Reappearing on Social Media

Male hands wrapping Christmas gifts with different holiday symbols near (Storyblocks)

CLEVELAND (WJW) – The Better The Business Bureau is a warning about the return of social media fraud, advertised as a gift exchange, which promises to receive between 6 and 36 gifts if you participate.

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

Advertised as a "Secret Santa" gift exchange among online friends you have never met. However, the BBB says that while it may seem innocent and amusing, the gift exchange The Secret Sister is actually a pyramid scheme and is considered illegal.

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

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

Here is an example of a post shared this holiday season:

Resolution: FOX 8 Viewer [19659010] BBB says this cycle continues and people start buying and delivering gifts to people they don't know, hoping to receive gifts in return.

However, this often does not happen and after people cease to participate in the gift exchange, the supply of gifts also stops, leaving hundreds of people without their promised gifts.

According to the US Postal Service, these gift exchanges are also considered a form of gambling and participants may be subject to prison time, fines, or mail fraud.

The BBB says that participating in these schemes can be dangerous because you provide your alleged campaign organizer with Secret Sister with your personal information, such as a mailing address or email. With just a little information, cyber thieves can expose you to future scams or commit identity theft.

BBB recommends the following advice to anyone who thinks they were targeted by one of these schemes:

  • Ignore it! Note that the pyramid schemes are international. Chaining letters involving money or valuables and promising high returns are illegal. Stop and ask, is it worth breaking the law? Report it instead to the US Post Office.
  • Report social media posts . If you are invited to join a pyramid scheme on social media, report on it. You can report these posts on Facebook by clicking in the upper right corner and selecting "Report a post" or "Report a photo".
  • Never give your personal information to strangers . This will open you up for identity theft and other scams.
  • Beware of false statements . Some pyramid schemes try to gain your trust by claiming to be legal and government-approved. These intruder schemes are incorrect because the government will never support illegal activity. No matter what they claim, pyramid schemes will not make you rich.

More information about fraud is available by visiting BBB Scam Tips and Becoming a Defender by Reporting BBB Scam Tracker Fraud.

US Post Office The service also provides chain mail information at www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect, or you can call the Post Office free of charge at 1-888-877-7644.

Continued coverage, here.

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