Watch out for the “letter from Santa” scam

Photo © Antonio Gravante - Fotolia

Unsolicited emails are almost always scammy. This one's no different

Scammers don't take time off for the holidays; they're rather take advantage of your holiday spirit instead. This week, the Better Business Bureau warned against a nasty new Christmas-themed scam: unsolicited emails offering to sell you a “Handwritten letter from Santa to Your Child,” usually citing a price of $19.99.

Of course, it's never a good idea to click on a link in any unsolicited email, but if you did, this link would take you to a website promising to sell you a customized letter from Santa, and an “official” nice-list certificate. If you were foolish enough to fall for this unsolicited online sales offer, what would happen next? According to the BBB:

In the best case, you are simply out the $19.99. In the worst case scenario, you just shared your credit card information with scammers, who can now use it for identity theft.

In another version of this scam, the site promises a free letter from Santa. It doesn't request any credit card information, but it does require plenty of personal information, such as your full name, address and phone number. Theses sites can then turn around and sell your personal information to spammers.

Write it yourself

If you actually want your child to have a handwritten “letter from Santa,” you can easily write one out yourself in only a few minutes; depending on how young the kid is, you might not even need to disguise your own handwriting.

If you want, you can also design and print out a “nice list certificate” or similar things on your own computer. (And before you protest “Oh no, I couldn't possibly do that myself! I'm not a professional writer or graphic designer!” – remember, you're trying to fool someone who still believes that a man with magic flying reindeer personally visits every child on the planet in a single night. “Plausibility” really isn't an issue here.)

For something with a little more pizzazz, there are free, kid-safe and non-scammy Santa options out there, such as the Portable North Pole, where you can make personalized videos and other communiques “from Santa.” With today's technology, you can easily have “Santa” personally contact your child in a variety of ways, none of which should cost you any money or require you to give your personal information out to strangers.

And, as always, remember and follow the anti-scam rule “Don't call me; I'll call you”: if you like a particular business and want to buy what they're selling, feel free to contact them, but you should never do business with anyone who contacts you out of the blue with unsolicited emails, text messages, phone calls, snail-mail letters or any other form of communication. You can call (or otherwise contact) them, but don't let them call you.

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