Bamboozled December 14, 2017: Ho, ho, hold on! Beware of ‘Letter from Santa’ scams


‘Tis the season and all that, but scammers aren’t taking any time off for the holidays. They’re ready to hand you a bah-humbug, as usual.

This one is especially deserving of coal in a stocking.

As children write their wish lists for Santa, scammers are ready to pounce. Not on the kids, exactly, but on well-meaning parents, grandparents and other loved ones.

You might receive an email or see a post on social media offering a letter from Santa to your child — for a fee.

What child wouldn’t want a missive coming straight from the big man in the red suit, postmarked from the North Pole?

If you click on a “Letter from Santa” link, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. The Better Business Bureau reports that fraudsters have once again created phony websites that promise a personalized letter to your child. Some even include an official “nice list” with your child’s name on it.

But, of course, they never deliver.

It’s bad enough that your child won’t get a letter from Santa, but you will have given your credit card information and your address to a con artist who could use the information for future scams or identity theft.

There are authentic companies that offer a letter from Santa, but you need to do your homework to make sure you don’t fall victim to a scam.

Or better yet: Turn to your friendly neighborhood post office.

The Postal Service began receiving letters to Santa Claus more than 100 years ago, spokesman George Flood said.

In response to all the letters, in 1912, Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized local Postmasters to allow postal employees and citizens to respond to letters. It was called “Operation Santa.”

“In the 1940s, mail volume for Santa increased so much so that the Postal Service extended the same invitation to charitable organizations, community groups and corporations to help respond to children who wrote letters to Santa,” Flood said.

This year is Operation Santa’s 105th birthday.

The postal service also offers its “Letters from Santa” program, which will arrange for your child to receive a letter from Santa with an authentic North Pole postmark. It will only cost you a couple of stamps. Here’s how to participate:

Have your child write a letter to Santa and place it in an envelope addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole.” Then write a personalized response to your child’s letter, signed from Santa. Put both letters into a stamped envelope addressed to your child, and add “Santa, North Pole” in the return address spot. Send the whole thing to: North Pole Postmark Postmaster, 4141 Postmark Dr., Anchorage, AK 99530-9998.

But at this point, you’ll have to overnight it.

“Letters from Santa must be received by the Anchorage, AK, Postmaster no later than Dec. 15,” Flood said. “Santa’s helpers in Anchorage, AK, will take care of the rest!”

You can share the experience on social media using the hashtag “#LettersFromSanta.”

The postal service expects to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail this holiday season, including 850 million packages — a more than 10 percent increase in package deliveries over last year’s holiday season.

If you want to give a holiday thank you to your carrier, note that under federal regulations, there are limits. Carriers can accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer, but that’s about it.

“Cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash, must never be accepted by postal employees in any amount,” Flood said.