MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As we gear up for holiday season, scammers are back in full force trying to take advantage of the gift giving season. A popular scheme is making its way around social media, but the Better Business Bureau wants you to steer clear.
It’s called "Secret Sister Gift Exchange.” But don’t fall for it. In fact, the Better Business Bureau reports it as a scam. Here’s how it works: the online trend tells you to buy a gift for at least $10, add your name to a list, and then promises you’ll receive dozens of presents in the mail in return. In order to join, you need to provide personal information like your home address.
You may be tempted to share it, but United States Postal Service says it’s against the law. The BBB calls it a modern version of a “chain letter” scheme, or "pyramid scheme.” Not only is it illegal, but if you participate, you could be the subject of mail fraud and your personal information could fall into the wrong hands. “It is a targeted scam toward women, and I think that’s because women, especially at Christmas, want everyone to feel loved and appreciated. It’s like, what’s $10? $10 to make somebody I don’t know happy? That’s a great feeling, and in reality, it all sounds good. But these scammers know how to play on emotions, and that’s what they’re doing with this,” said Renee Wikstrom, director of communications at Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina.
The BBB says there's no guarantee you'll receive the gifts promised to you. Wikstrom said if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can always go to BBB's website and use its "Scam Tracker" tool. From there, you can find out what scams are going around in a particular area in real-time. Wikstrom says it’s important to never give out personal information online, and if you think you've fallen victim to a scam, report it to the BBB immediately.
“The way it’s initiated is these are professional scammers behind it, it’s not you and your best friend and your cousin deciding oh let’s do some secret sister stuff - it’s not that. It’s a professional scam to get your personal information, so that they could come back later. It may be you’re giving them your address, all kinds of information when you do that, so they may be somebody that’s driving around in your community checking your mailbox for your mail or your gifts, or to steal your personal information online,” said Wikstrom. “That’s what they’re looking for is a way to gain access into your life.”
There’s also a similar online gift exchange called the "Wine Exchange.” The BBB says to stay away from that one too.