BBB warns of 'Secret Sister Gift Exchange' - Facebook's favorite holiday scam

BBB warns of 'Secret Sister Gift Exchange' - Facebook's favorite holiday scam
BBB warns of 'Secret Sister Gift Exchange' - Facebook's favorite holiday scam
Posted at 8:04 AM, Dec 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-13 03:10:45-05

(WIS) - It seems like harmless social media fun, but for the last several years, the Secret Sister Gift Exchange post has tricked a lot of giving people on Facebook. 

But, a reminder: this is a scam. 

Several Better Business Bureau agencies are warning consumers against this scam, which is identified as an illegal pyramid scheme. 

"The exchange has been circulating on social media sites and claims that participants will receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one gift valued at $10," the BBB says. "Users are encouraged to invite others to participate in the holiday gift exchange, where they will receive information on where to mail gifts."

Here's how the scheme works, per the BBB:

  • If a consumer purchases one gift for a stranger, she will receive as many as 36 gifts in return.
  • This type of gift exchange may seem reasonable enough in theory: six friends invite six more friends, who all send gifts to the participant in spot 1 before that person named is removed.
  • This process repeats itself with the participant in the 2 spot, and so on.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service warns people of chain letters, citing the mathematic impossibility of winning and the legalities of them. 

"Recently, high-tech chain letters have begun surfacing. They may be disseminated over the Internet, or may require the copying and mailing of computer disks rather than paper," US PIS said. "Regardless of what technology is used to advance the scheme, if the mail is used at any step along the way, it is still illegal."

Social media helps expedite the chain letter, meaning the more shares, the more people that are duped. says the scam has been reoccurring on the social media platform since 2015. In 2016, the same scam was used as a wine exchange. 

Remember, never give your personal information to anyone through social media. Here are more tips from the BBB: 

  • To avoid this scam, the best thing to do is completely ignore it altogether. Do not give out personal information to anyone.
  • Chain letters via social media and U.S. mail that involve money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal. If you start a chain letter or send one, you are breaking the law.
  • Chances are you will receive little or no money back on your “investment.” Despite the claims, a chain letter will never make you rich.
  • Some chain letters try to win your confidence by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service offers information about chain letters at, or call the Postal Inspection Service toll-free at 1-888-877-7644.

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