Holiday Scams: What to Know About Secret Santas & Instagram Giveaways

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We’ve got the naughty list, and it’s a long one. That’s because holiday scammers are busy once more. Here are two you should be aware of:

Is a Secret Santa Gift Exchange a Scam?

A Secret Santa gift exchange is fun with friends -- but with strangers online, not only could you be divulging personal information, but it could be illegal.

This scheme pops up every holiday season. A newer version revolves around exchanging bottles of wine or purchasing $10 dollar online. You might see references to “happy mail” or “secret sister” or “for the good of the sisterhood,” the Better Business Bureau says.

Here’s how it works: You get a tempting invitation via email or social media to sign up for what seems like a fun gift exchange. You’re asked to provide your name, address and personal information about you and your friends. You then add that info on to a list that’s already started by people you’ve never met. Then it’s your turn to send an invite to exchange a gift with a stranger along with their friends and contacts.

So what’s the catch? The gift exchange has left many disappointed, with most never receiving a gift, and exposing their information and those of friends.

The U.S. postal inspector has classified these as a pyramid scam.

How to Tell If an Instagram Giveaway Is Legitimate

It's hard to resist a free offer. That’s what makes the Instagram giveaway an eye-catcher.

The fake giveaways are mostly posted from lookalike pages that are not Instagram-verified. They promise a free item or product if you leave a comment and tag friends on the post. Most scammers then follow up by sending the user a message saying they won. The message usually contains a malicious link with a potential virus to steal your information.

If you get a post about a giveaway, make sure it’s coming from a verified page. You can tell by that little blue checkmark if you don’t see one, it’s best to stay clear and not engage.

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