Consumer Alert: Warning issued about buying pets online, Medicare robocalls and Secret Sister gift exchange

Call 1-800-422-7128 to report a scam or ask questions
Published: Nov. 22, 2020 at 11:46 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Consumer experts are issuing new scam alerts about buying pets online, Medicare robocalls, and a secret gift exchange you may have seen on your social media pages.

Buying Pets

A lot of people have added a pet to their family during the pandemic.

The Wisconsin Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection says people in the state have lost thousands of dollars to online pet scams in recent months.

This scam isn’t new, but we want to remind you how it works.

The seller will say you can’t see the pet in person, or come up with a story about the pet not being available and there’s a second seller who may have a pet for sale.

Consumer Protection officials say you should verify the business, and search the name online with the word scam or fraud.

Ask for the name of their vet, search for the vet online, and then contact their office using the number listen, not one given to you by the seller.

Lastly, don’t pay until you verify the seller - don’t give into high pressure sales that you have to act fast.


Consumer and insurance officials are also warning about an increase in robocalls and suspicious sales calls for health insurance and Medicare.

An Action 2 News viewer says he got a call asking to verify his Medicare number for his new card. He knew it was a scam and said he’d already received his new card.

Every year during open enrollment, scammers show up to try and take advantage of you.

Don’t respond to calls or e-mails who claim to help, or ask for your personal information.

Secret Sister Gift Exchange

And, as we enter the holiday season, officials with the Better Business Bureau are warning about a gift exchange being shared on Facebook.

Officials say the Secret Sister Gift Exchange is back after being around for years.

How it works: A friend asks you to share your name and address, and you’ll get on a gift list and receive dozens of presents. It became popular in 2015 through Facebook posts that promised participants would receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one gift.

BBB officials say it’s actually an illegal pyramid scheme, and could open you up to fraud if you share too much information.

Officials say a newer version of the scam revolves around exchanging bottles of wine, or purchasing $10 gifts online. You could also see references to receiving “happy mail” or doing the exchange “for the good of the sisterhood.”

The BBB says the U.S. Postal Inspection Services says the gift exchanges are considered a form of gambling, and that participants could be subject to penalties such as jail time, fines or a lawsuit for mail fraud.

If you are told you’ll receive a large amount of gifts or cash by mail, e-mail, or social media, you should do the following:

  • Ignore it - Click here to report chain letters involving money or valuable items and promise big returns to the U.S. Postal Inspection Services.
  • Report social media posts - you can do so by clicking in the upper righthand corner and selecting “Report post” or “report photo.”
  • Don’t give personal information to strangers
  • Be wary of false claims - some pyramid schemes will try to win you over by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government. Pyramid schemes are illegal in the United States and Canada, and won’t ever be endorsed by the government.

Click here for information about the scheme from the BBB.

A simple gift exchange with friends or your office is okay.

Consumer protection officials are asking you to share tips with friends to keep them from getting scammed, and if you have any questions or want to report a scam, to call the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.

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