Question: A Facebook friend invited me to join a Secret Sister Gift Exchange. It seems like it would be fun, but are there any issues I should be concerned about?
Answer: Sorry to be a Scrooge, but according to the Better Business Bureau, those Secret Sister Gift Exchanges are actually pyramid schemes, so don’t respond to your friend’s Facebook post!
The scheme starts with a convincing invitation, either by email or social media, to sign up for what seems like a great, fun program. All you must do is provide your name and address plus the personal information for a few additional friends, and add this information to a list that’s already started of people you’ve never met on the internet. Next, it’s your turn to send an email or social media invitation to send a modest gift to a stranger along with their friends, family, and contacts. 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.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. Just like any other pyramid scheme, it relies on the recruitment of individuals to keep the scam afloat. Once people stop participating in the gift exchange, the gift supply stops as well, and leaves hundreds of disappointed people without their promised gifts. It also leaves participants vulnerable to cyber thieves who could use the personal information in future scams.