BBB warns about social media schemes as holiday season begins

November 20, 2018 10:27 AM

The season of purchases and presents is also primetime for schemes designed to cheat you out of money.

These types of offers that promise something that seems too good to be true are not new. But, officials say social media is giving them a new way to reach people. And, the age group falling for them the most might surprise you.


"Our data shows, more often than not, it's 18 to 35-year-olds," said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. "Certainly, during the holiday season when people are spending a lot of money those tricksters are out there looking for people."

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Adams Loyd said the organization is hearing about a rise in instances of a scheme called the "secret sister gift exchange." It's mostly being shared on Facebook. The post asks people to mail a few inexpensive gifts or bottles of wine to a list of people with the promise participants will receive dozens of gifts in return when others do the same.

"The way the message is positioned people actually think they are being generous and it's sort of fun and it seems very innocent," Adams Loyd said. "But baked into these messages is the call for people to share very personal information." 

Not only will the secret sister exchange leave you disappointed and expose your personal information, but it's also illegal. It's considered illegal gambling because it mimics a chain letter and participants could face penalties for mail fraud.

According to the Better Business Bureau, younger people are more susceptible to fall victim for a scam.  However, their losses also tend to be much less.  Below is a comparison of people between the ages of 18 and 34 to people 65-years-old and older.  The BBB found in its 2017 Annual Risk Report that "susceptibility decreases with age, but losses are higher in older age groups."

Adams Loyd said Facebook and other social media platforms are fueling a resurgence of similar schemes. Users may tend to view posts shared by friends on Facebook as more credible.

The BBB also reminds holiday shoppers public WiFi is more vulnerable and suggests avoiding using banking and other apps with sensitive information. Also, many schemes look like promotional emails. Don't click on links from unfamiliar sources.

If you'd like to report something to the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota you can reach the group at 651-699-1111. 

For tips on how to avoid these situations, click here.

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Matt Belanger

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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