If you’re stuck for last-minute gift ideas for a child, a handwritten note from Santa might sound like the perfect idea. After all, what kid wouldn’t want a letter from Old Saint Nick?
Except it may be nothing more than a scam, according to Consumer Reports, which issued a warning this week advising consumers to be wary of emails advertising a “handwritten letter from Santa to your child” or promising a personalized phone call on Christmas Day from Santa himself.
Clicking on a link embedded in such emails could take unsuspecting consumers to a website that promises the “official” correspondence. To further entice you, you may be offered free shipping — but only if you act quickly (within a few hours).
Consumer Reports said that while there are several legitimate companies offering these types of services, many others may simply be an impostor site that takes your money and leaves you holding an empty (gift) bag. There’s also potential for much worse, since the scammers now have your credit card information and with it could steal your identity, putting your credit history and credit score at risk.
Consumer Reports also said that some sites won’t ask for credit card data as a way to appear legitimate, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe. You’ll still be asked to supply plenty of other personal information (names, phone numbers, addresses, etc.) that could leave you vulnerable to identity theft.
Consumer Reports is suggesting consumers avoid the scam by ignoring immediate calls to action, confirming any contact information with the Better Business Bureau and making sure there is a secure connection (identified by “https” at the start of the URL) before entering credit card or debit card information. It also said you can check for grammar and spelling errors and hover over links to reveal their true destination as ways to identify the scam.
Consumers who have reason to believe their personal or payment information has already been compromised can monitor their credit for signs their identity has been stolen. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and see your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.
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