Business

Word to the Wise: Is that letter from Santa a scam?

The holiday season is here, and so are the scams. Watch out for fraudulent websites offering “Letters from Santa.” Some of these sites promise a custom letter from the man at the North Pole but don’t deliver.

The scams usually come in 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. You decide to purchase and enter your credit card information.

Don’t do it! 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. These sites can then turn around and sell your personal information to spammers.

How to spot a scam website:

Ignore calls for immediate action. Many scams try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency (including the scam above). Don’t fall for it.

Hover over links in emails to check their source. Scammers will make links look like something else. Place your mouse over hyper-linked text and the true destination will appear.

Make sure the website has (real) contact information. If something goes wrong with your order, you need to be able to contact the business at a physical address. When in doubt confirm that the address and phone number are real.

Do your research. Check out the business on www.BBB.org and do a quick web search.

Make sure you pay through a secure connection. When entering credit card information online, be sure that the URL starts with “HTTPS” and has a lock icon in the browser bar.

Watch for poor grammar and spelling. Scam emails and websites often are riddled with typos. This is often a giveaway that you aren’t dealing with a real business.

There are many trustworthy services that offer letters, calls and videos from Santa that can make your child’s dreams come true. However, by checking them out first, you can make sure that you are not creating a nightmare for yourself.

For more holiday tips you can trust, visit www.BBB.org.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. This column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. For questions or complaints contact the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or email info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.

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