How to avoid holiday scams

U.S. & World

(CNN) – The holiday season is meant to be a time for generosity and good will, but that also leaves many vulnerable to scams and schemes, especially online.

If a stranger online promises you a gift in exchange for some personal information and a few bucks, it probably isn’t legit.

“The Secret Sister gift exchange is something that we see online on Facebook. All you have to do is purchase a ten dollar gift and she’ll tell you where to mail it. And then in return you’re going to get 36-plus gifts in return. And you’re not most likely going to get these gifts,” says Kelsey Coleman, BBB Director of Communications for Washington, D.C. and Eastern Pennsylvania.

The Better Business Bureau says scams like “Secret Sister” could open people up to cybersecurity breaches and identity theft.

“You’re sharing your personal information with people that you don’t know. So things like your address, your email address, that’s all in the hands now of people that you’re not one-on-one connected to,” said Coleman.

But gift-giving schemes aren’t the only online Christmas cons, buyer beware when clicking on those flashy social media ads from companies you may not have heard of.

“Online scams are the big one nowadays where we’re seeing companies who are popping up out of nowhere and, unfortunately, taking people’s money with nothing in return,” Coleman said.

To protect yourself, take the time to research the company you’re buying from, be sure to pay with a credit card, and read the fine print.

A few simple steps to keep those Grinches from stealing your Christmas.

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