BBB Alert: Secret Sister Exchange Returns

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November 13, 2018
Pensacola, Fla. (November 13, 2018) – Your BBB serving Northwest Florida would like everyone to have a joyous holiday season by keeping their identity from being stolen and/or losing money to scammers. One such scam is recirculating on social media right now – Secret Sister Exchange.
The idea behind the “exchange” is similar to chain letter gift exchanges that were popular in the 90s and email chain letters that were common in the early 2000s.
Here's how the exchange is sold to would-be participants:
Welcome to our secret sister gift exchange! Here's how it works:
1) Send one gift value at least $10 to secret sister #1 below.
2) Remove secret sister's name from #1; then move secret sister #2 to that spot.
3) Add your name to #2 with your info.
4) Then send this info to 6 other ladies with the updated name info
5) Copy the secret sister request that I posted on my wall, to your own wall. If you cannot complete this within 1 week please notify me, as it isn't fair to the ladies who have participated and are waiting for their own gifts to arrive. You might want to order directly from a web-based service (Amazon, or any other online shop) which saves a trip to the post office. Soon you should receive 36 gifts! What a deal, 36 gifts for giving just one! Be sure to include some information about yourself ... some of your favorites. Seldom does anyone drop out because it's so much fun to send a gift to someone you may or may not know ... and of course it's fun to receive. You should begin receiving gifts in about 2 weeks if you get your letters out to your 6 people right away.
Despite the probability that most participants will never receive the promised avalanche of holiday gifts, it’s also worth noting that gift chains are illegal.
This “gift exchange” is a twist on the old chain letter. Chain letters would come to your house, tell you to send a certain amount of money to the person at the top of the list, cross them off, then add your name to the bottom and send it along.  There’s at least one problem with chain letters. They’re illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.
The BBB suggested the following tips to anyone who thinks they've been targeted:
  • Start With Trust®. Check with BBB® before becoming involved in suspicious and possibly illegal activity.
  • 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 you can call the Postal Inspection Service toll-free at 1-888-877-7644.
To find out more about scams or to report one, go to BBB Scam Tracker (
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Tammy Ward, Communications Director
(850) 429-0026