Sorry to be a grinch, but don’t let the holidays lull you into letting your guard down. While you’re distracted with shopping and family get-togethers, fraudsters are using this time to test out their antics.  


Fraud attempts are expected to rise by 14% this holiday season. And this time of year, the volume and value of purchases simultaneously increase even more. The customary season of giving could cause trusting consumers to let their guard down, becoming easy targets for fraud schemes. 


The “Secret Sister” Gift Exchange 

The viral Secret Sister gift exchange swirling around Facebook is actually an illegal scam. It seems to come around every year for the holidays, promising a fun way to give and receive gifts. This is how it supposedly works: 

 Real Secret Sister Scam

Source: CBS 


If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The promise of participants sending out just one gift and receiving six to 36 gifts in return is mathematically impossible. It’s essentially a get rich quick scheme, or a pyramid scheme that might work for those at the top, but those on the bottom won’t receive anything.  


How It Makes You Vulnerable 

It might be the season of giving, but make sure not to give too much away like your personal information! 


Related Post: 7 Tips to Avoid Black Friday and Cyber Monday Scams 


Technically, this exchange is a form of gambling, making it illegal. And not only is it illegal, but participants could be subject to mail fraud or have their personal information stolen. To play, participants need to share their name and address, which are two criteria for a stolen identity. Scammers can get ahold of your name, address, and public profile information from your Facebook account. 


It’s always best to be cautious when sharing personal information, especially when it’s being posted on a public platform like Facebook 


Other Holiday Scams to Watch Out For 

Phony Carity Sites. The holiday season influences generous people to make donations to their favorite charities. However, scammers could take advantage of that generosity. Never donate over the phone, don’t send wire transfers, and most importantly, always do your research. You can find a list of reputable charities at 


Related Post: Veterans Day: The FTC is Cracking Down on Fraudulent Charities 


Fake Online Shopping Sites. These sites might look legitimate, but a closer look will tell otherwise. Watch out for sketchy URLs, unexpected redirects, and sites for well-known brands that include extra words. Websites that begin with “https” are always secure and encrypted, guaranteeing your safety.  


Holiday E-Cards. If you receive an email from a non-apparent sender offering coupons or posing as a friendly gesture, it’s safer to ignore it. If you’re curious, hover over the included links. If they direct to a different address than stated, do not click. These emails could contain attachments that will download malware when clicked. 

The Secret Sister gift exchange and other scams have been circling the internet for many holiday seasons in a row. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  

This holiday season, it’s best to stick to what you know to avoid getting involved in a fraud scheme.  


New Call-to-action