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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Central South Carolina and Charleston
BBB Advises Parents To Scrutinze Privacy Policies On 'Dear Santa' Sites
December 12, 2011

Websites that promise to send children letters or emails from Santa Claus may be fun, but the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises parents to check the sites out carefully to avoid having their child’s privacy invaded or worse.

More than 60 domain names linked to Santa Claus have been registered, according to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), an affiliate of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Some sites offer children the opportunity to persuade St. Nick via email that they were good in 2011. Others offer to send children a personalized letter from Santa, with fees of zero to more than $15.

The BBB advises adults to review the sites carefully before allowing children to share any personal information. They should try to determine who is seeking the information, how it will be used and whether it will be shared with third parties.

“Parents need to make sure the sites aren’t seeking to exploit their children,” said Jim Camp, BBB president and CEO. “Some sites may be preying on children’s innocence to obtain private information that can be used in identity theft or other schemes.”

Websites directed to children—or those with a special children’s section—should have a privacy policy that explains the site’s information collection practices. The website should include the name of the company and complete contact information, including a physical address and telephone number.

The BBB advises parents to:

  • Check whether the website shares information with third parties, including advertisers, and whether the company publicly discloses the information or retains the information for any future purpose.
  • Determine that children are asked to share no more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in the activity — a first name and email address, for instance.
  • Limit the personal information children share with Santa and omit physical addresses. Children may be told that Santa already knows where all the children live.
  • Check sites for unwelcome content. Some sites are geared toward adults and may contain language or advertising that parents may not want children to see.
  • Click on hyperlinks in the website to assure that children don’t access inappropriate content.

Consumers can learn how to protect themselves or find BBB Business Reviews of businesses or charities by calling (800) 892-3584 or by going online to www.bbb.org.