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‘Wine ninjas’ spreading kindness in Alberta but online expert warns of security issues

Albertans are gifting special treats to strangers through an online Facebook group, but one security expert is warning people to be cautious about the information they give out. .
Albertans are gifting special treats to strangers through an online Facebook group, but one security expert is warning people to be cautious about the information they give out. . Devon Simmonds / Global News

For Sandra Lewis, the surprise gift package left at her Calgary home over the weekend came at just the right time.

“I just took a moment and I teared up,” Lewis said. “It was just so nice and thoughtful. Like everyone else, everything has kind of slowed down but it’s still stressful.”

She discovered the gift was from an “Alberta Wine Ninja” — a member of an online group that encourages women to gift wine, chocolates, and other goodies to other people in the group.

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Once women join the private Facebook page and provide their address, they’re eligible to receive a treat from someone in their community or find a person to send a gift to.

This particular group has quickly grown to more than 41,000 members across the province as of Saturday evening, but there are pages with similar concepts across the country.

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One online security expert has some safety concerns.

“I understand the pay it forward part — I think it’s wonderful,” Paul Davis said.

“But when you put out too much personal information, we put ourselves at risk.”

While Davis says the intentions are good, putting your personal information online could have lasting implications.

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Davis said he’s seen people post their cell phone numbers, working hours, even codes to enter apartment buildings in some wine ninja groups.

If people plan to continue the groups, there are ways to make these groups safer.

“They need to really vet the people coming in,” David said. “They need to make sure that anyone who joins the group has an incredibly locked-down Facebook account where, when people click on those profiles, they can’t find extra information.

“In the groups, they need to stop volunteering extra information besides their address.”

Still, recipients like Lewis say it’s brought them a lot of happiness in a time where there really hasn’t been much to smile about — and they plan to pass it on.

“I’d love to contribute and let them know that they’re loved and thought of and we’ll all get through this by being nice to each other,” Lewis said.

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Global News reached out to the founders of the Alberta Wine Ninjas group but didn’t hear back.