USA CHRISTMAS

Santa Claus Is Coming... for Your Credit Cards

By Lifestyle and Budget Credit.com

If you really want to convince your kids they’ve received a letter from Santa, practice your creative handwriting skills or ask a friend to write one — buying one off the Internet probably isn’t the way to go.

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While there appear to be some legitimate “Letters from Santa” businesses online and plenty of free downloadable templates, there are also people running similar operations who couldn’t care less about getting letters to children. The Better Business Bureau issued a warning to consumers Monday about Santa letter scams, which are designed to steal your money and personal information.

The scam has a few faces. In one iteration, you may receive an email hawking handwritten letters from Santa, telling you to make your child’s Christmas special with a personalized note and official “nice-list” certificate. You follow the link in the email to pay $19.99 for this limited-time offer, and in the best-case scenario, you lose $20. You may have also handed over your credit card information to a thief, exposing you to credit- or debit-card fraud.

Even free services may not be safe, the BBB warned. Your contact information is valuable, so the people running the letters from Santa site may sell it to spammers or identity thieves. While you’re pressed for time this holiday season, make sure you’re not letting busyness compromise your security. It’s a good idea to shop with retailers you’re familiar with, check to make sure sites are secure before you enter sensitive information, and make a habit of checking your bank statements for signs of unauthorized activity.

You should also keep an eye on your credit score, because a sudden drop may indicate fraud. You can get two of your credit scores for free with updates every 30 days on Credit.com. You may be at greater risk for credit- or debit-card fraud and identity theft during the holidays, but knowing what to watch out for and understanding how to respond to fraud will reduce the chances you suffer significant financial or credit damage.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Christine DiGangi covers personal finance for Credit.com. Previously, she managed communications for the Society of Professional Journalists, served as a copy editor of The New York Times News Service and worked as a reporter for the Oregonian and the News & Record.