Right now we are looking for ways to connect with others while being safe in this socially distant world. And the holidays are going to be a particularly challenging time.

Infectious Disease Specialists are advising us to really limit our Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings this year to keep from spreading the coronavirus.

And you can bet if there is a societal vulnerability there are scammers out there trying to take advantage of us.

I think we've all seen this one going around on Facebook recently. It's a kind of version of the office 'Secret Santa' gift exchange. You repost an invitation to join an online gift exchange. It is promised that you and your friends will receive around 36 $10 gifts like bottles of wine and crafty things.

Then you are asked to submit your name and personal information along with that of a few of your friends. Then what happens is you give some online gifts, don't get all of your promised gifts, and you have given up you and your friend's personal information.

Jessie Schmitt from the Sioux Falls Better Business Bureau warns, “While we see our friends post these Secret Sister invitations the reality is they are a pyramid scheme that leaves those at the bottom sending out gifts and receiving nothing in return. If you want to participate in something like this do a gift exchange among friends.”

The next time someone promises a bounty of gifts or cash by mail, email, or social media, BBB recommends the following:

  • Ignore it! Chain letters involving money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal.
  • Report social media posts. If you receive an invitation to join a pyramid scheme on social media, report it.
  • Never give your personal information to strangers. This will open you up to identity theft and other scams.
  • Be wary of false claims. Some pyramid schemes try to win your confidence by claiming they’re legal and endorsed by the government. No matter what they claim, pyramid schemes will not make you rich. You will receive little to no money back on your “investment” or gift exchange.
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