The Santa Letter scam takes the No. 1 spot on this list for several reasons. First, it victimizes parents just trying to do something special for their kids for Christmas, as well as the kids, who'll get bupkus from the Big Guy in the Furry Suit. Not only are people paying for a service the seller may not provide, but even worse, victims may have their identities stolen or their computer infected with malware. Real Naughty List type stuff.
Not surprisingly, the kind of people who run this scam also maintain tons of fake websites for life and health insurance, Medicare assistance, Russian brides, and much, much more. But the emails and websites offering to send custom, handwritten letters from Santa have become so numerous that the Better Business Bureau issued a special warning to consumers on December 1st:
You get an email selling a “Handwritten letter from Santa to Your Child.” It encourages you to make your child’s holiday by purchasing “Santa’s special package” for $19.99.
You click on the link, and it takes you to a website. The site promises the special package contains an “official” nice-list certification and customized letter from Santa. There’s even a free shipping special that ends (not coincidentally) in just few hours.
Since last year, blogger Simply Kierste has assembled and updated a long list of services to request letters from Santa which she and her commenters have used, including the USPS (sorry, their deadline's past), but also the Canada Post (who've processed millions) and the Santa Claus Museum, in Santa Claus, Indiana (where they're accepting letters until Dec. 20th—hurry!). Check her post for much more info, including print-your-own info if you really dropped the snowball. She also lists one e-mail service, a U.S. domain which has been registered since 1998 and seems to have a decent online reputation through user-contributed site Web of Trust, but, of course, always be diligent and alert.
For the present, the worst Santa Letter scammers operate with impunity in other parts of the world. With that in mind, we might need to band together and send our own correspondence asking for help.
I know you’re terribly busy right now getting ready for Christmas. However, I wondered if you could think about a special present for some very naughty boys and girls. They pretend to send letters from you and I’m sure you have them on your Naughty List, but instead of just leaving coal in their stockings, could you perhaps consider something special? How about arrest warrants?
That concludes my 12 Scams of Christmas list, and unlike the real holiday, we wouldn't be a bit sorry to see them go. May your holidays be merry and bright and always scam-free!
Mug shot image via ThriftShopCommando.
Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.