Don't Be Fooled By Facebook's 'Secret Sister' Gift Exchange Scam, Authorities Warn

nito100/iStock via Getty Images Plus
nito100/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The season of giving is upon us, and scammers are already finding ways to take advantage of it. To avoid wasting money and putting personal information at risk, people should keep an eye out for the "secret sister gift exchange"—a chain letter scheme that's making the rounds on Facebook, authorities warn.

The scam presents itself as a secret Santa-type gift exchange. If six people agree to take part in the fun by sending a $10 gift to their "secret sister," the posts read, they will receive six to 36 gifts in return.

The set-up sounds appealing, but it's actually just a spin on the classic pyramid scheme. The first person to share the post may get some free gifts, but most people who respond will mail out their items only to get little to nothing back.

If the scam sounds familiar, that's because it's been circulating on Facebook around the holidays for years, and has already resurfaced for the 2019 season. Authorities hope more users will recognize it as a scam, with the Better Business Bureau warning consumers to use caution when signing up for online gift exchanges.

The fact that it doesn't pay off isn't the only reason to avoid the scam. Whether they're shared through social media or by mail, pyramid schemes are illegal "if money or other items of value are requested with assurance of a sizable return for those who participate," according to the BBB. The gift exchange could also lead to identity theft, with many posts asking for personal information such as your phone number and home address.

No matter what time of year it is, you should always be mindful of scams when browsing email or social media. Here are some of the most common ones to look out for.

[h/t USA Today]

25 Gift Cards That Give You—and Your Recipient—the Best Bang for Your Buck

flyparade/iStock via Getty Images
flyparade/iStock via Getty Images

Though gift cards can definitely solve your annual conundrum over what to buy those hard-to-please people on your list, deciding on a gift card is the easy part—deciding which gift card to give them, however, is where the challenge comes in.

To help you narrow it down, WalletHub devised a multi-factor ranking system for gift cards of all types, from home improvement outlets like Lowe’s to subscription services like Netflix. Researchers analyzed popularity (based on search volume), average buyer’s discount across major gift card exchange sites, average resale value, retailer ratings on popular review sites, and shipping fees, and then assigned an overall score to each of America’s 100 largest retailers.

According to the study, your best option this year is a Target gift card, with an average buyer’s discount of 5.76 percent, a resale value of $77.12, and a retailer rating of 3.09 out of 5.

But before you stock up on Target gift cards for your many friends and family members, you might want to peruse the rest of WalletHub’s data. IKEA, for example, which tied for third place with Home Depot and eBay, boasts an average buyer’s discount of 10.85 percent.

The top performers from the food industry were Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Chipotle, which all tied for fourth place (among several other companies, Netflix and iTunes included) with 50 points apiece.

Even if you’ve already decided which gift cards you’re going with this holiday season, it’s still worth looking at WalletHub’s data before you buy them to make sure you’re getting a discount comparable to (or better than) the average. And, if there’s a particularly choosy recipient on your list who’ll likely try to resell their gift card, perhaps pick one with an especially high resale value, like Costco’s $84.60 or Walmart’s $84.09.

Check out the rankings below, including overall score, and find out the full details from WalletHub’s study here.

  1. Target // Score: 70
  1. Walmart // Score: 60
  1. Sephora // Score: 60
  1. eBay // Score: 55
  1. Home Depot // Score: 55
  1. IKEA // Score: 55
  1. iTunes // Score: 50
  1. Starbucks // Score: 50
  1. Costco // Score: 50
  1. Chick-fil-A // Score: 50
  1. Netflix // Score: 50
  1. McDonald’s // Score: 50
  1. Fandango // Score: 50
  1. Chipotle // Score: 50
  1. REI // Score: 50
  1. Old Navy // Score: 50
  1. H&M // Score: 50
  1. Disney // Score: 45
  1. Google Play // Score: 45
  1. Best Buy // Score: 45
  1. Macy's // Score: 45
  1. Lowe's // Score: 45
  1. Subway // Score: 45
  1. Amazon // Score: 40
  1. Gamestop // Score: 40

The 20 Most Expensive ZIP Codes in America

The San Mateo Bridge runs along San Francisco's Bay Area, home to many of America's most expensive ZIP codes.
The San Mateo Bridge runs along San Francisco's Bay Area, home to many of America's most expensive ZIP codes.
Andrei Stanescu/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t need to be a real estate agent to know that New York and California are two notoriously expensive places to live. However, those inconceivably high property values aren’t just contained to mansions in Beverly Hills or office buildings in Midtown Manhattan.

Each year, PropertyShark crunches the numbers on real estate prices across the country to discover which ZIP codes are truly the most expensive—and this year, multiple ZIP codes across California and New York once again reigned supreme. Instead of analyzing asking prices, PropertyShark looked at each area’s median sale prices, which more accurately reflect how much people are actually willing to pay for each property based on supply and demand.

At the top of the list for the third straight year is Atherton’s 94027 in California’s Bay Area, home to Silicon Valley venture capitalists, sports figures like Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, and more. The median sale price for real estate there is $7,050,000, and the luxury housing in the region definitely isn’t owned by the Currys’ neighbors alone—nearby ZIP codes that also cracked the top 20 include Palo Alto’s 94301 and 94306, Los Altos's 94022 and 94024, and several others.

top 10 most expensive zip codes
PropertyShark

South of the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Orange County ZIP codes make impressive appearances on the list, too. Los Angeles’s Santa Monica (90402) and Beverly Hills (90210, of course) took the third and fourth spots, respectively, with median sale prices just over $4 million, and Orange County’s Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar also made the top 20.

Overall, California took a staggering 16 of the top 20 spots, and New York was the second-place state with four spots. Surprisingly, the most expensive New York ZIP code isn’t in the heart of the Big Apple—it’s farther east, in a Long Island village called Sagaponack, which is, unsurprisingly, in the Hamptons.

The top 20 (which is actually the top 22, because of two ties) also includes a Boston ZIP code and one in Medina, Washington, which borders Lake Washington.

Scroll on to find out just how expensive each ZIP code is, and read more about PropertyShark’s study here.

  1. Atherton, California (94027) // $7,050,000
  2. Sagaponack, New York (11962) // $4,300,000
  3. Santa Monica, California (90402) // $4,154,000
  4. Beverly Hills, California (90210) // $4,080,000
  5. New York, New York (10007) // $3,900,000
  6. Boston, Massachusetts (02199) // $3,669,000
  7. Palo Alto, California (94301) // $3,522,000
  8. New York, New York (10013) // $3,515,000
  9. Los Altos, California (94022) // $3,450,000
  10. Ross, California (94957) // $3,350,000
  11. Portola Valley, California (94028) // $3,300,000
  12. Medina, Washington (98039) // $3,200,000
  13. Los Altos, California (94024) // $3,150,000
  14. Newport Beach, California (92661) // $3,140,000
  15. Newport Beach, California (92662) // $2,900,000
  16. Corona Del Mar, California (92625) and Stinson Beach, California (94970) // $2,800,000
  17. Palo Alto, California (94306) // $2,751,000
  18. New York, New York (10282) // $2,660,000
  19. Los Gatos, California (95030) and Burlingame, California (94010) // $2,630,000
  20. Santa Barbara , California (93108) // $2,620,000

[h/t PropertyShark]

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