Santa Scam: Unsolicited email seeks to capitalize on children's Christmas wishes

Letters to Santa Claus are pinned to a notice board. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

City Attorney Mike Feuer distributed a warning Friday for Los Angeles residents to beware of scammers this holiday season - including a Santa Claus ruse that seeks to capitalize on children's wishes.  

"It starts with an email -- an unsolicited email -- offering to sell you a handwritten letter from Santa to your child, usually with a signing a price of $19.99," Feuer said. "Don't click on the link, as it takes you to a website promising to sell you a customized letter from Santa. In the best case, you're simply out 20 dollars -- in the worst case, you just shared your credit card information with potential scammers who could now use it for identity theft." 

Another scam that takes place via email and social media in the form of a gift exchange, which Feuer said starts with a "convincing invitation."

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People are invited to sign up for what may seem like fun, but is actually mischievous. When people provide name, address and other personal information, and then tag a few of their friends for the gift exchange, that information is added to a scammer's grocery list of strangers on the Internet.  

"Next, it's your turn to send an email or social media invitation, but to send a modest gift or a bottle of wine to a stranger, along with their family, friends and contacts, and the cycle continues," Feuer said. "You're left buying and shipping gifts to unknown individuals in hopes that the favor is going to be reciprocated and that you'll receive the promised number of gifts in return."

"Unfortunately, it doesn't happen that way. Just like any other pyramid scheme, it relies on the recruitment of individuals to keep the scam afloat. Once people stop participating in the gift exchange, the gift supply stops as well and leaves hundreds of disappointed people without their promised gifts."   

People can report suspected scams online at www.lacityattorney.org/consumers.