'Tis the season for gift giving, and when you're in the spirit, you can easily get swept up in fun Secret Santa type gift exchanges. But keep your wits about you. Some of these exchanges are cleverly disguised identity theft schemes. Take, for example, the Secret Sister gift exchange. It promises that you will receive 36 gifts from other women playing along in the exchange, and all you have to commit is around $15; whatever the cost of a small book or decent bottle of wine. The Exchange instructs you to send that small gift to the first person on the exchange list, and move your name up. Then people below you on the list send gifts to the person above them. Sounds pretty straight forward... until you realize two things:

  • It's a pyramid scheme, and the only person who benefits is the person who started the list...
  • You have to provide an address, phone number, or other personal information the can be useful to steal your identity

According to Snopes.com, it's a chain letter and it's illegal. Be smart out there. Scamming is at an all-time high around the holidays. As one article on the Secret Sister gift exchange said, "If it sounds too good to be true, that's probably because it is."