Beware “Secret Sister” gift exchange scam

Action Line

The “Secret Sister” gift exchange became popular in 2015 through social media posts that claimed you would receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one gift. Each holiday season, the scheme pops back up. 

Roseann Freitas, Better Business Bureau: “It’s a pyramid scheme, and pyramid schemes are illegal. So you want to be careful of that right up front.” 

It starts with an invitation by email or social media to sign up for what seems like an innocent gift exchange. All you do is provide your personal information and add that to a list that’s already started with people you’ve never met online. 

Roseann Freitas: “So you need to give out your name and your address because for anyone to mail you a gift you’d have to give up that information out. So now they can add you to the list of potential victims because they’ve already managed to get your name and address from you.” 

Never give your personal information to strangers and be aware of false claims. 

Roseann Freitas: “So always be leary if it says this is approved by the postal service. It is not. The postal service does not approve any of these chain letters or friends that you shop for.” 

If you receive an invitation to join a pyramid scheme via social media, report it or ignore it. 

Roseann Freitas: “If you get this random invitation, don’t copy it and send it on to your friends because you’re opening them up to become potential victims. Just ignore it.” 

If you have a concern or are interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, give us a call Monday through Friday at 591-0222. You can also send an email to

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