In October a friend of mine posted about a Secret Sister Gift Exchange. Maybe you have already heard of this? You post on Facebook asking for 6 friends to participate and when they reply you send them the details. To participate you only have to send one gift, and you will get 36 in return. Well, after mapping out the number of passes my name makes, it only works out to 12 gifts, IF everyone participates. I had already sent out the info to my six gal pals and purchased my $10 worth of gifts when I started getting emails and texts from friends saying this was a scam and an illegal chain letter. So, I did a little research.

According to this is considered a chain letter type of post and it validated my math query. (I am notoriously horrible at math so I was glad to see I was right this time). It also shared the United States Postal Inspector’s definition of chain letters:

“A typical chain letter includes names and addresses of several individuals whom you may or may not know. You are instructed to send a certain amount of money–usually $5–to the person at the top of the list, and then eliminate that name and add yours to the bottom. You are then instructed to mail copies of the letter to a few more individuals who will hopefully repeat the entire process. The letter promises that if they follow the same procedure, your name will gradually move to the top of the list and you’ll receive money — lots of it.”

Here is how the Facebook Post reads:

Secret Sister Gift Exchange

I felt really skeptical and a little embarrassed that I sent this out to friends. How could I have not known this was a scam? So, I sent a group message and cancelled the entire thing. I still sent a gift to the woman on my list because I knew she was probably just as excited as me to participate. I didn’t want her to feel gypped. I thought no harm in bringing a smile to someone’s face. Who doesn’t love to get a fun gift in the mail?

Just a day or two after I cancelled, a package arrived for me and I thought, “Did I order something online and forget about it?” Nope. It was a gift just for ME- two beautiful scarves! Both sent from a mom I already know who did not reply as one of my original six sisters.

secret sister scarf

A week later another package arrived on my door step addressed to ME. I did not recognize the return address and I could not figure out who it could be from. It was another secret sister gift! This time a fabulous candle and a beautiful dish towel to hang in my kitchen. This gift came from someone I have never met. So, I sent her a thank you card and in return she sent me a Christmas card.

secret sister candle

Despite everyone’s skepticism (including my own) I have no regrets in participating. I think if you are sharing with friends you know personally, and the original poster isn’t the only one benefiting and getting all the goods, then this is just a fun way to brighten someone’s day. As a mom it is rare I get gifts just for me. As much as I would like to I wouldn’t spend money on these things for myself (which are all things I love). Having someone take the time to purchase a thoughtful gift for me to enjoy is truly uplifting. I am grateful for the two optimistic and caring individuals who threw caution to the wind and made me their secret sister. I hope someone else did the same for them!

If you have the same concerns, or only want to exchange gifts among friends you can use this Secret Santa Generator at (I have never used this site personally, nor do I endorse it. Just offering as a suggested alternative).

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy





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25 Comments on Secret Sister Gift Exchange, Scam or Solidarity

  1. Glad that it all worked out and see, you got some really lovely gifts. I am with you, though – I would have been skeptical about it, too.

  2. I’m glad that it all worked out so well! I think you’re totally right. Getting surprise gifts in the mail is so exciting, we should definitely do it more often. 🙂

  3. This is such a cool idea but I would definitely be a little weary that no one would reply. I think I’ll modify it and try it out with a group of friends instead next year!

  4. Glad you were able to get some lovely gifts after all. I saw this going around and the warnings too. I hate when something sounds too good to be true. I always want these things to be real, but it seems you really have to do your homework!

  5. There are a lot of scams out there. Earlier in the year I was sent a secret shopper one. Wonder how many people fall prey to scammers.

  6. Awwww glad it worked out! I had a friend do this and she ended up getting a lot of fabulous gifts! So I don’t know…. I saw the warnings all over so didn’t give it a try, then saw my fiends fabulousness… Guess it was probably just one of those things where if you got flaky people or not

  7. It’s sad that things like this have been messed up so much that they’re illegal. I think they’re fun as long as everyone is just doing it to bless others.

  8. I’ve never heard of the secret sister gift exchange but I’m glad it turned out well for you! It’s a super cute idea!

  9. I think there are lots of ways to do the secret sister thing where it works out for everyone! Glad it worked for you!

  10. I heard about this, and someone told me it was kind of like a pyramid scheme and the people at the top ended up getting the most gifts or something. I don’t really understand it, but I would definitely be skeptical!

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