BBB: 'Secret Sister' Facebook gift offerings are actually a pyramid scheme

Teddy bear in stocking in front of Christmas gifts. ((Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Posts spread on Facebook and other sites, that promise participants can receive up to 36 gifts as part of an exchange, are actually part of an illegal pyramid scheme, the Better Business Bureau warns.

The "Secret Sister" posts, which the BBB says became popular in 2015 after a viral post, start as an invitation through social media or email. The sign-up process asks for your name and address, along with other personal information, and information for a few friends.

The scam, the BBB says, then directs you to send an invitation and gifts to strangers with hopes of receiving gifts from others in return. However, the BBB says you never get the amount of promised gifts in return.

Officials say the "Secret Sister" scam operates like any other pyramid scheme, using recruitment to keep the scam going. But, when it stops, it leaves hundreds of people disappointed.

At the same time, the BBB says the people behind the scam end up with personal information for the participants that can be used for future scams or to potentially commit identity theft.

The BBB says the next time you are offered a number of gifts or money via mail or social media, you should just ignore it and report it to the U.S. Postal Service or to Facebook. Officials also say you should never give personal information to strangers and to always beware of offerings that seem too good to be true.