With the holidays coming up, scams are on the rise. Everyone loves a good Secret Santa game, and it can be fun participating in an online game which includes people from all over the world. Sadly this is taken advantage of and could lead to taking part in one big scam.
The latest scam warning from the BBB (Better Business Bureau) is a gift exchange post on social media, which promises between 6 and 36 gifts to participants. This gift exchange scam is known as the "Secret Sister", and is making a comeback to Facebook. The innocent-looking posts are, in fact, part of a pyramid scheme that is considered illegal. If this sounds familiar to you, you probably heard about it way back in 2015, when the scam first surfaced on Facebook. The scam back then also included a post promising participants gifts in return for sending one gift valued at $10. And who doesn't love freebies? Especially around the holidays. The participants were encouraged to invite friends to join, the more the merrier, but it turned out to be a pyramid scheme.
How does the Sister Scam work?
It starts with a persuasive post encouraging you to sign up for a fun game promising up to 36 gifts. First, you add your name and address to a list of so-called other participants that you have never met, as well as the personal information of some friends. Once you're signed up, it's your turn to send the invitation, adding more and more people to the cycle.
The participants start to buy and ship gifts to people they don't know, hoping to receive some in return. But in reality, they are left disappointed with no presents and, even worse, become vulnerable to cybercriminals who can get access to their personal information.
How can I stay secure from the Sister Santa Scam?
- Never click a "chain letter" style post: Not only could this be illegal to participate in, but you could also be putting yourself and loved ones at risk of a much bigger scam. Do not click these posts and go to the upper righthand corner of the post to report it.
- Keep your personal information to yourself. Don't provide your personal information to people you don't know. It could expose you to identity theft and other scams. Check if you're data has been breached.
- Be suspicious. Pyramid schemes are illegal and will try to lure victims by claiming they're legal and authorized by the government. Don't fall for it. There is no such thing as easy money and gifts that are too good to be true.
- Browse with protection. Having a protection tool like Guardio can save you so that even if you click on a link that will take you to a phishing third party site asking for your information, you will get an alert before entering.
Secret Santa games are fun, stick to playing them with people you know. Happy & Safe Holidays!