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By Debra Dolan | November 12, 2018 at 12:05 PM CST - Updated November 13 at 6:56 AM

(WECT) - As we head into the holiday season, be aware of potential scams.

The Secret Sister Gift Exchange is a popular scheme making its way around social media, but the Better Business Bureau warns to steer clear of this “illegal scam.”

The exchange claims participants will receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one gift valued at $10. Users are then encouraged to invite others to participate.

The scam is targeted towards women and sounds something like this:

🎁💃🏽🎄This is my first year participating in SECRET SISTER. I am looking for 6 or more ladies interested in a holiday gift exchange. Doesn’t matter where you live - you are welcome to join. You have to buy one gift valued of at least $10 and send it to your secret sis. (Hello, Amazon!) you will then receive 6-36 gifts in return. This is so much fun! I loved sending a gift to a complete stranger knowing that she might have a brighter day and a sweet surprise because of what I sent 🎁 Let me know if you’re interested, and I will send you information about your sister. 💃🏽We could all use some happy mail! Who’s in? Just comment “I’m in”🎄

While this type of gift exchange may seem reasonable enough in theory, there are several reason to avoid participating:

  1. The BBB warns this is a typical pyramid scheme that is considered illegal. “Pyramid schemes are illegal either by mail or on social media if money or other items of value are requested with assurance of a sizeable return for those who participate,” the BBB said on its website.
  2. Chances are you won’t receive any gifts. Basically, the first people to join the gift exchange may end up with a gift, but that’s about it. 
  3. You’re giving away personal information, like your address, that could be used by criminals in the future. 

According to, the Secret Sister Gift Exchange launched in 2015 and another similar scheme surfaced in 2016 as a “wine exchange.” Same idea, same result.

If you receive a chain letter by mail, email or social media, especially one that involves money or gifts, Better Business Bureau recommends:

  • Start With Trust®. Check with BBB before becoming involved in suspicious and possibly illegal activity.
  • To avoid this scam, the best thing to do is completely ignore it altogether. Do not give out personal information to anyone.
  • Chain letters via social media and U.S. mail that involve money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal. If you start a chain letter or send one, you are breaking the law.
  • Chances are you will receive little or no money back on your “investment.” Despite the claims, a chain letter will never make you rich.
  • Some chain letters try to win your confidence by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government.
In honor of National Caregiver Month and Alzheimer's Awareness month, M4A created our first of three short videos below. 

We want to recognize and thank Elizabeth Thomaston, Lakeside Hospice and the University of Montevallo for their help with creating this video. M4A sends a very special "shout out" to our Falcon Scholar Katy Johnson from the University of Montevallo for her leadership in managing and coordinating our video projects!
M4A's Caregiving Video
The Shelby County Sheriff's Office and M4A have held the Senior Leadership Academy over the last 12 weeks at the Chelsea Community Center.
Over 22 local seniors attended the Senior Leadership Academy 12-week course and graduated on November 16th. M4A is proud to have been a partner in this really great educational initiative in Shelby County.
Law enforcement encourages use of transmitter bracelets to help locate people

By Lydia Nusbaum | November 19, 2018 

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness month and the state’s top law enforcement agency is encouraging the use of electronic bracelets to help locate people.
Today there are 90 thousand people across the state of Alabama with Alzeimer’s and about 60 percent of them will repeatedly wander and possibly become lost, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
With cold weather coming to Alabama, the awareness has heightened.

“Our elderly community, they struggle with circulation issues, so when they’re out in the cold they suffer from hypothermia very quickly so it’s even more important that we get to them as fast as possible,” said Cpl. Kent Smith with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
All 67 counties are participating in Project Lifesaver designed to help locate missing seniors, and individuals of all ages with Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder or other conditions that cause people to wander.

The program provides a waterproof transmitter bracelet for the individual who qualifies for the program. It also provides a receiver so sheriff’s offices and local police departments can locate the bracelet.

Project Lifesaver devices meant to help find people with the bracelet. The receiver is on the left, the bracelet is on the right.
ALEA said many times these searches can take hours and use up a lot of manpower. However, with the program not as many resources are needed.

“Time is key in such searches, and our teams typically locate missing Project Lifesaver clients in a matter of minutes,” ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor said.

Smith shared how law enforcement rescued an elderly man wearing the bracelet who wandered off from home.
“We were able to spot him on the ground in a field and he was about a mile from his house, and he was actually to the point to where he was having to push himself on the ground because he was dehydrated and he was probably within so many hours of not surviving it," said Cpl. Kent Smith.
If sheriffs have trouble locating someone with the bracelet, they can call ALEA’s Aviation Unit, which will help rescue and find the person.

“The last thing we want is to issue a Missing Senior Alert for your loved one,” Taylor said. “Project Lifesaver participation gives us an opportunity to find them quickly and bring them home to you.”
The bracelets cost $300. Either the individual or the sheriff’s office helps pay for it.
Montgomery County currently has eight people using the bracelets, with two additional clients expected by the end of the year. The county pays for the bracelets.
In Madison County has 64 people enrolled in the Project Life Saver Program. The last two years they have had 15 recoveries with a 100 percent success rate in locating the person. There is no cost to the client for the bracelet. The Pilots Club of Huntsville and other sources pay for the costs associated with the project.
In 2018 ALEA issued 22 senior alters statewide, 20 alerts in 2017, and 25 in 2016.

M4A's Lap Blanket Project Kicks off with Widespread Support
Published 11:56 am Tuesday, November 20, 2018
By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer 

COLUMBIANA – The sewing room at the Columbiana Senior Center was more crowded than usual Nov. 14 as several visitors came by to thank a group of women who have been making lap blankets for local patients.

“We wanted to do something for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their families,” said Robyn James, Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging’s development and marketing director.

The Chelsea Community Center served as a collection site for donations of fabric and accessories for the blankets.
“We were just blessed,” Programs Director Jane Ann Mueller said. “People kept bringing bags of stuff.”

Members of the Senior Center Sewers, also known as “Sarah’s Rippers,” have sewn the blankets during their weekly club meetings at the Columbiana Senior Center the last couple months.

“It’s been great,” Columbiana Senior Center Director Ali Conn Payne said of the project. “We’ll continue to make them.”
The small blankets, also called activity or fidget blankets, are free to recipients and have items like buttons and ribbons sewn on top to give patients something to do with their hands if they are upset.

“It’s used as a tool to calm them,” Mueller said. Senior centers in Pea Ridge, Pelham, Montevallo and Westover also contributed to the project, which will continue indefinitely, James said.

“You guys have done some incredible work,” James said to the sewers. “There’s a lot of people in need of these blankets.”
Anyone interested in helping with the project should contact Robyn James at (205) 670-5770.

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Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging · 209 Cloverdale Circle · Alabaster, AL 35007 · USA

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