Image of Santa's back sitting at computer for Christmas planning

With the holidays approaching, there is no shortage of fun and meaningful ways to celebrate, especially if you have kids. From decorating to baking to going for a drive to see the lights, there are a lot of memories to be made at this time of year.

But some of the offers of holiday cheer aren’t so fun, especially if they leave your identity—or your child’s identity—at risk. According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research Group as reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Most children have no credit histories and their Social Security numbers have not yet been flagged in any fraud prevention database. Unmarked and untested, children’s stolen identities often go unnoticed until after they reach 18. This allows the fraud to continue for years. In the 2012 Identity Theft Assistance Center/Javelin Child Identity Fraud Survey, 17 percent of children were victimized for a year or longer.”

One report to the Identity Theft Resource Center this week involved a suspicious-looking email offering a letter from Santa for the holidays, but it was sent to a child’s school email account:

The email had a number of strange elements to it. The tagline that this is a “trick” isn’t very jolly or in keeping with the holiday spirit, but that’s really not a sign of criminal activity—more like poorly worded ad copy. What is rather telling, though, is the grammatically incorrect subject line, the mistyping of the company’s address below the graphic, and the required “unsubscribe” message: “In case these alertz are regretting you, Avoid.HERE.” 

But even if this email didn’t raise several red flags, what information would you be required to turn over to this company in exchange for a letter? Your name, address, and credit card number are required, as are the names, genders, and ages of the children. Many of these letter offers also have space to include the child’s “wish list for Santa” in order to help personalize the letter. That means you not only gave someone key demographic and financial information about you and your family, but you may have even shared your child’s interests, sports, and activities. So, before participating in this activity, it’s worth researching the company to not only determine if they are legitimate but to also better understand what kind of information you’d need to give up. And then with that knowledge, make the decision that’s best for you and your family.

There are many safe and secure ways to spread the holiday cheer, but it’s always important—at the holidays and all year long—to keep a close watch on what you share and where it can end up.

Questions about identity theft? Connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.