Better Business Bureau warns mid-Missourians of possible holiday scam

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Better Business Bureau is advising people to ignore the Secret Sister Gift Exchange. 

"Ignore it. Our best advice is just to ignore it. This definitely appears to be a pyramid scheme and again this is an illegal activity," said Columbia BBB Regional Director Michelle Gleba. 

The Secret Sister Gift Exchange is usually found circulating on social media sites and claims that participants will receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one gift at the value of $10. Users are encouraged to invite others to participate in the holiday gift exchange. 

Here is how the scam works: it uses Facebook and other social media sites to spread the word. The BBB warned it could be a pyramid scheme, meaning people are paid to recruit others rather than commission on sales. 

"It asks you to purchase one gift for a stranger for $10 and in return you will receive 36 gifts. The catch is that you are asked to reveal your personal information," said Gleba. 

A way people can monitor scams going on in their communities is the BBB Scam Tracker that can be found on Columbia BBB's website. 

"You will learn a little bit more about how the scam works and about how much money people might be loosing. It (BBB Scam Tracker) is also a way for you as a consumer to report a scam and alert others in your community," said Gleba. 

Some people like Madie Churchill had a positive experience with the Secret Sister Gift Exchange. 

"I ended up getting gifts from like eight different people. The present I sent was worth like $10 and I definitely got a bunch back in return," said Churchill. 

Madie joined the Secret Sister Exchange through a trusted friend and received gifts from people as far as Tennessee. 

"I didn't get the 36 gifts that they say, but I definitely got a lot out of it and it was kind of cool to just get random gifts in the mail everyday from random people," said Churchill. 

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