The Secret Sister Gift Exchange Explained

How does the Secret Sister gift exchange work? Maybe it should be called the Secret Sister pyramid scheme? 

The Secret Sister gift exchange is another one of those gestures that appear on social media each year as we approach the holiday season. According to the Better Business Bureau, however, the Secret Sister gift exchange ought to be called the Secret Sister pyramid scheme. There may be a few winners but there are many, many more losers.

Better Business Bureau offices across the United States have issued warnings to consumers regarding the Secret Sister gift scam and that updated versions are popping up online.

How the Secret Sister Gift Exchange Scam Works

The Secret Sister gift scam, which assures those who partake in the scheme multiple free gifts in exchange for sending just one to someone else, first made an appearance on Facebook in 2015. The premise is simple. It starts with an online invitation sent by way of social media or email which includes all the details and a request for the user’s personal information. 

Next, it’s the receiver’s turn to pass the social media invite on to their list of contacts to encourage them to acquire a gift for a stranger in addition to their family and friends. “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,” according to the Better Business Bureau. 

The Secret Sister gift scam and other online scams are becoming increasingly more common. Experts, however, see them as  illegal pyramid schemes and  a type of gambling. People in search of Secret Sister gift ideas, especially those who fall for the scheme, are vulnerable to fraud and identity theft because they have to provide sensitive personal information.

What to Do if Approached by a Secret Sister Scam

Surfing the internet and logging onto social media accounts can be risky. It’s best to stay up-to-date with all the facts so you can always stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. So, if you’re ever contacted with promises of free gifts or money, the following advice from the Better Business Bureau will keep you out of harm’s way.

  • Ignore it: The best way to keep your personal and banking information safe when approached by someone online or a pop-up ad is to simply ignore it and click off. Zero engagement from your side makes it impossible for scammers to gain information from you or your system.
  • Report Scam Messages Received on Social Media: If you receive an invitation to join a Secret Sister pyramid scheme, it should be reported right away. Facebook posts can be reported by navigating to the top right corner and selecting “Report post” or “Report photo.”
  • Don’t Give Personal or Banking Information to Strangers: This goes without saying. Handing out your personal and banking information just opens the doors to possible identity and credit card theft.
  • Be Careful of False Claims: Secret Sister pyramid schemes often attempt to prove their legitimacy with claims that they are legal and even endorsed by the government. Needless to say, governments would never endorse any kind of initiative that in any way resembles a pyramid scheme.

If you are the victim of a Secret Sister scam, contact MyChargeBack. We are an American financial services firm specializing in complex, card-not-present dispute resolution. Working with over 800 banks worldwide, we have assisted clients on every continent recover millions of dollars in assets that they thought they lost for good.