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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

Santa Scams Prove Not Everyone Online Is “Nice”

Email scams like the latest handwritten Santa letters aren't uncommon and can lead to identity theft.Whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, if you signed up to get a handwritten letter or personal call from Santa Claus, you might have just became the latest victim in a Christmas scam.

Consumer Reports said that while some companies do offer “legitimate” Santa letter services, there are some that are just out there to get your money or, in worse scenarios, your identity. These scams typically come from an email that link you to a website promising custom letters from Santa and official certification that the recipient is on the “nice list.” These scams usually lure victims with offers that prompt them to act quickly, such as a free shipping promotion that only lasts a few hours.

Typically, through payments for these services, scammers have access to credit card information that they can use for identity theft. However, sometimes these sites just ask for other personal details like full name, address and phone number. Consumer Reports says these sites can use this information themselves or sell it to other scammers or identity thieves.

Whether it’s Christmas-themed or not, these types of scams aren’t uncommon. To better protect yourself against them, it’s important to know how to spot them in the first place, especially when they offer services also seen from real businesses. Here’s a checklist that can help you identify them:

  • Look at the kind of information it requires
    According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), thieves typically want your Social Security Number, bank account or credit card number, driver’s license number, insurance policy number, date of birth and state or employee identification number. While there are perfectly legitimate reasons for a business to ask for your credit card number, make sure you’re entering this information on a secure or encrypted site by looking for “https” in the URL and doing a bit of research about the company. For other types of information, especially Social Security Number, it’s a good rule of thumb to never share it with anyone. Companies that would typically require more sensitive information would never ask for it via email.
  • Ask yourself if it seems too good to be true
    In order to grab your attention, scams tend to offer some sort of “deal.” In the case of the Santa letter scams, this was either a great or free shipping promotion with a time limit. Often, these deals seem too good to be true, and that’s because they are. If something feels off about a deal, it’s best to listen to your gut and pass on the opportunity.
  • “When in doubt, check it out”
    One of the universal rules of online scams, according to ITRC, is “when in doubt, check it out.” This rule is pretty self-explanatory, but there are some details that can help you in your research. For instance, scams can come from companies you’ve already done business with. It’s good to know that banks do not conduct business conversations via email, and you’ll hear from them either via postal mail or over the phone. If you receive an email from your bank or another supposedly trusted company via email (look out for emails addressed as “Dear Customer” or to your email address), you should contact the company or access your account directly through its website. Be sure to avoid clicking on any links in these emails, as they could contain malicious software or viruses.

It’s important to maintain your own security on the Internet by selectively sharing information. If you’re concerned about your vulnerability to identity theft, you can invest in a credit monitoring service that can notify you of certain activity that may indicate fraud. This can then prompt you to take action, like obtaining a credit freeze.