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Holiday Special: The 1920s Santa Claus Scam

Colorful conman John Duval Gluck and the Santa Claus Association

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Full Transcript


[00:00:02] Frank Abagnale: Welcome back to AARP's The Perfect Scam. I'm Frank Abagnale, and a new set of 12 episodes featuring America's most shocking scam stories. As you know, it's been an amazing journey this past 48 episodes of our inaugural podcast with the collaboration of our co-host, Will Johnson. As the podcast matures and takes on a new and challenging stories, we look forward to expanding out talent of co-hosts. For the next set of 12 stories, The Perfect Scam's producer, Julie Getz, will be hosting with me. Julie, it's great to have you here.

[00:00:35] Julie: Hi, Frank, and thank you. I'm excited to be here and really looking forward to co-hosting with you. Will certainly left big shoes to fill, but I'm thrilled for the opportunity and ready to take on the challenge. So what that said, should we dive right into it?

[00:00:48] Frank Abagnale: Let's do it.

[00:00:49] Julie: Okay, great. So, Frank, our listeners always want to know what you've been up to lately.

[00:00:54] Frank Abagnale: Well, of course, still teaching at the FBI Academy. This is cyber awareness month, so I've been traveling out to major Fortune 500 and 100 companies speaking to their employees which, explaining to them that the most important job they have is keeping their information safe. So just last week, I was at Marriott Hotel Corporation in Bethesda, I was at Humana in Louisville, Kentucky, and uh obviously, explaining to people some of the things that are going on, to make them aware of them, teaching them a little bit about social engineering and, of course, we continue our tour with AARP. This year we're wrapping up 43 states. So last night, we were actually in Philadelphia. We had over 1000 people come out, uh to the presentation which was great, and we did a number of meeting interviews and talked about the most recent scams that were going on. So we continue to go with what's the most important thing and that is educating people, so they don't fall victim to these scams. And that's what we like to do on The Perfect Scam, is make people aware of them and make them understand what's going on, and then giving them tips to make sure they can protect themselves.

[00:02:00] Julie: Great, and you also have this new book that, that's been out, right.

[00:02:04] Frank Abagnale: Yes, as uh you know, I was commissioned by AARP to write this uh book, called "Scam Me If You Can." It's published by Random House, and it's available on Amazon and all the bookstores. An amazing book, really. It covers every scam. And when I was uh requested to write it by AARP, they actually said to me, I want to cover every scam; millennials, seniors, investment bankers, cryptocurrency, bit coin, every scam, and that's exactly what we did in the book. We looked at every scam in very simple terms. We explain how the scam works. We have a little test after each scam so to make sure you remember what we said in the book. It's gotten amazing reviews on Amazon, reviews from the Secret Service, the FBI, and it's also a great reference book where maybe a year from now you get a call or an email, and you go, you know, I think, I think I read something about this. I think this is actually a scam; you can go look that up and use it as a reference tool as well. So the book is "Scam Me If You Can." It's a great book, and I was happy to be able to uh write that book with AARP.

[00:03:06] Julie: Great. Is there one scam that people should really be alert of right now?

[00:03:10] Frank Abagnale: There's a scam going on right now that's very popular, uh as a matter of fact getting in a lot of media, where they actually call you and say they're from Social Security Administration, and that they're cancelling your Social Security check because you owe some back taxes, and you need to pay them immediately. Like every scam, they're telling you you have to pay it right now with Apple Pay, with your credit card, or if they prefer you wire them the money or give, send them gift cards. The IRS and the Social Security would never ask you to do those things. So just remember, Social Security's not going to call you, and they're not going to cancel your payment, so that's a scam. So the minute you hear that, know that that's a scam.

[00:03:48] Julie: All right, Frank. Well, without further ado, let's jump right into our next episode.

[00:03:52] Frank Abagnale: Great.


[00:03:56] Julie: Our guest this week is Alex Palmer. He's a journalist, a New York Times bestselling author who covers travel, culture, and history. His book, "The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York." It tells the story of a dapper con artist named John Duval Gluck who used the Santa letter answering scheme to make himself rich and famous. It's a fascinating story, and one to which Alex has a personal connection.

(telephone ring)

[00:04:28] Alex Palmer: This is Alex.

[00:04:28] Julie: Hi, Alex, it's Julie Getz with AARP's The Perfect Scam. How are you?

[00:04:32] Good, how are you?

[00:04:33] Julie: Good. Thanks for talking with us.

[00:04:34] Alex Palmer: Absolutely. John Duval Gluck is actually my great granduncle and a really fascinating character. In talking to a distant cousin of mine who actually grew up with Gluck, she remembers him just being a, a lot of fun, always telling a great story around the dinner table, but also, she said, you could never really trust him. So remembered uh finding him a magnetic, entertaining personality, but also kind of questionable in his, his storytelling.

[00:04:58] Julie: What I love about your book, Alex, is that it not only tells the story of your great uncle’s scam, but it also dips into the history of how Americans celebrate Christmas. For instance, I didn't know that before the early 1900s, Christmas celebrations were a lot more low key than they are now.

[00:05:13] Alex Palmer: Yeah, around kind of the turn of the century, that's really when Christmas went public, It had been a holiday celebrated in some fashion going back, you know, centuries, but generally it more celebrated in the home, it was really kind of a family holiday uh where if people were getting gifts, it was generally homemade gifts, and there would be feasts around the dinner table, and celebrated between the direct family and then maybe uh around New Year’s people would then go and uh, go door to door and visit each other. And that was the time that there would be a little more of a public celebration. But this shifted kind of as mass media took over, as people were being a little more conspicuous in their consumption, and celebrations of Christmas became a little more elaborate and little more public.

[00:06:00] Julie: An example of that is the story of how New York City started the very first public Christmas Tree lighting celebration in 1912 at Rockefeller Center.


[00:06:11] Alex Palmer: Everyone from all social strata were invited to come and take part in this celebration and that was the first time something had been done really on that scale in, in a civic way, sort of a public uh, event like that, and it took off the next year. Fifty plus other cities followed in New York's footsteps and New York of course, continued the tradition as well.

[00:06:31] Julie: So that was the start of Christmas really becoming a big public celebration in America. What happened from there?

[00:06:37] Alex Palmer: A growth and explosion of popularity in the celebrating of Christmas. More extravagant than ever from one year to the next.

[00:06:44] Julie: Okay, now that we've set the scene, let's talk about your granduncle, John Duval Gluck. He was the oldest of five brothers and grew up in Westville, New Jersey. For a while it seems like he was destined for a quiet life running the family business, no?

[00:06:57] Alex Palmer: He followed in his father's footsteps in uh customs broking work and took over for his father after he passed away. He had a pretty, pretty savvy managerial mind, and a passion for bigger things.

[00:07:11] Julie: What were those bigger things?

[00:07:12] Alex Palmer: In 1913, he heard there was all these letters that kids were writing to Santa Claus that, because Santa wasn't, didn't have a formal address, he wasn't an actual person that could receive letters, they would just go to the dead letter office and be destroyed. The general population protested having these little childish wishes just be destroyed. The post office had said that if someone was interested in taking over these letters and finding someone to answer them, they could uh get permission as long as the postmaster of the, the local city uh gave approval. And that's where John Duval Gluck, Jr. spotted an opportunity to kind of play Santa Claus for New York City.

[00:07:49] Julie: So this is when he formed the Santa Claus Association, right?

[00:07:52] Alex Palmer: Yeah, it was an operation that could be the middleman between the kids that were asking Santa for things and the generous New Yorkers who wanted to see these letters answered. He presented this idea to the postmaster who was impressed with what Gluck was suggesting and went ahead and, and approved that he could be the person in New York City to answer Santa's letters.


[00:08:16] Julie: Gluck immediately put his plan in motion. He got a midtown restaurant to donate a small office so he and his team of volunteers could set up shop. Just weeks after forming his charity, they're going through letters from the children of New York.

[00:08:29] Alex Palmer: They opened them, inspected them, made sure that they were legitimate, and then they uh, matched them with donors who uh were in the city who said that they would be happy to answer these letters. So uh, you know, Jimmy asked for a, a new cowboy hat, uh they would send that letter to somebody in New York who would then purchase the cowboy hat and could either mail that back to Jimmy, or could even deliver it themselves to his address. So it created this real personal touch, where if you were somebody that maybe wasn't all that inspired by the idea of just cutting a check to some other charity, this was a way to uh kind of play Santa Claus and to actually see the impact that your generosity was having.

[00:09:12] Julie: In its first year, Gluck's Santa Claus Association got off to a good start, but by the time Christmas 1914 rolled around, it was a flat-out sensation.

[00:09:23] Alex Palmer: The papers covered it breathlessly and many New Yorkers came forward to donate uh gifts and to take part in this. But also it got attention for sort of the innovation of what Gluck put together of this sort of all volunteer force doing good and, and there's willing givers, there's willing recipients, and Gluck was just there to kind of help connect those two things.

[00:09:47] Julie: Volunteers included high society ladies and men of industry who wanted to make a difference. They spent hours tracking letters from thousands of New York children, and probably did it all for free.

[00:09:58] Alex Palmer: He said, early in the launch of the group, we don't accept money. We're not here to get, ask for donations. All we're asking is for, for generous New Yorkers to come forward and answer a letter.

[00:10:07] Julie: It wasn't just his charity that was getting praise, John Duvall Gluck, Jr. was happy to step into the spotlight too.

[00:10:13] Alex Palmer: It wasn't just about this great organization he was starting; it was all about him. He really played up things like the fact that he was actually born on Christmas Day, made him sort of cosmically poised to take on this role.

[00:10:28] Julie: Gluck might have started the charity with the very best of intentions, but it quickly became a way to get much more than he gave.

[00:10:36] Alex Palmer: The first year he requested money for postage. I think it was like 100 bucks or something like that, that would cover like 2000 stamps at the time, and they received it, but already he's kind of going against what he, the sort of stated mission of the group. And then by the next year they're hosting these benefit shows where they're bringing in hundreds of dollars that would have covered any kind of administrative expenses, especially when everybody working for it is a volunteer, yet within days of this big successful sold-out benefit show, he's asking for more money for postage again. And then, soon they're selling these seals where you could put these on the letters that you send, and they're selling uh, these Santa Claus annuals where it's compiling photos of all the volunteers along with little messages from Gluck, and they're selling those and not only charging 25 cents a copy, but they're also selling advertisements within these annuals. So all these extra money making schemes start popping up over the years, and it just snowballs. There starts to be a lot more money involved, and fewer and fewer answers about where the money's going.

[00:11:43] Julie: On Christmas Day in 1915, Gluck announced his grandest plan yet. He'd construct a massive building right in the middle of Manhattan. The exterior would be white marble, and the front would have an arch portal 20 feet deep. The first floor would house charities for children. There'd be a toy fair that went all year round. But the building's purpose was more than just office and toys, it would also be a monument to Santa Claus.

[00:12:11] Alex Palmer: It was going to have you know, giant stained-glass image of Santa at the front, illustrations around the building from great celebrated illustrators of the time, all for the low, low price of $300,000.

[00:12:24] Julie: Over the next several years, Gluck kept fundraising for his Santa Claus building, but somehow the project never got built.

[00:12:30] Alex Palmer: He spoke very little about the building after this initial announcement, and whether that was because there wasn't enough money coming in to actually make it happen, or what seems more likely that there may have been some money coming in at least, and it was not being allocated towards trying to make this building a reality.

[00:12:46] Julie: Once he got the Santa Claus Association firmly up and running, Gluck began to dip into other charity work.

[00:12:52] Alex Palmer: He starts a number of other organizations like an alternate rival Boy Scout group that he kind of becomes the lead fundraiser for that really is created just to get funds from the patriotic public without actually applying them toward anything. And he has a group called the Citizens Secret Service he launches where you can, you know, cut a check and, and become a uh protector of, of the US from, from spies.

[00:13:15] Julie: But these new charities don't have the same cache, and quickly get exposed as frauds.

[00:13:20] Alex Palmer: He was investigated and shut down by everything from the, the Bureau of Investigation to uh, the, the New York Attorney General, but the Santa Claus Association stayed above this somehow.

[00:13:30] Julie: Over the next 15 years, the Santa Claus Association becomes a New York Institution, but around 1927, Gluck's long running scheme starts to unravel.

[00:13:41] Alex Palmer: It was around this time was when he shifted tactics into not just kind of sending out gifts and asking for donations in the press for administrative costs, but sending out letters that explicitly asked, can you cut a check for $100 and send it to the Santa Claus Association, and this was not even within the period of December which had kind of been the policy for the post office up to that point, that was the month when you could do this Operation Santa Claus.

[00:14:07] Julie: The new fundraising tactics catch the attention of a politically ambitious bureaucrat, named Byrd Coler who just so happened to be the Public Welfare Commissioner of New York City.

[00:14:16] Alex Palmer: And this was a guy who oversaw the, the city's charities and uh was sort of the accountant for the city, somebody that kind of pioneered standards in charities. So he eventually got wind of the Santa Claus Association. And he wanted to know where this money was going.

[00:14:33] Julie: Coler starts looking into the Association’s structure and found that there was just one man spending the money and calling the shots; John Duval Gluck, Jr.

[00:14:43] Alex Palmer: It was pretty clear just looking at the numbers, there was a lot of discrepancies that, that raised a number of questions. A $10,000 fund that just vanished one year, um, there was rental costs, even though the group had been staying rent-free in the offices that it had been occupying. Increasing salaries for an increasing number of people, even though it still claimed that uh it was a, you know, an all-volunteer organization. A lot of questionable things.

[00:15:10] Julie: Coler takes his findings to the press. And when the news breaks to the public, it's a huge scandal.

[00:15:15] Alex Palmer: Gluck was furious about it, made a major public, you know, appeal and denied any wrongdoing, but it all started to fall apart when the thinness of the group's records and the, all the claims that Gluck had been making. So in the Christmas of 1928, the Post Office ceased to send Santa letters to Gluck, and that was what finally undid the group.


[00:15:39] Julie: Gluck got lucky. He was disgraced, but at least nobody took him to court.

[00:15:44] Alex Palmer: He kind of absconds to Florida after that with tens of thousands of dollars that are, that are unaccounted for, uh which at the time is a huge amount.

[00:15:53] Julie: Well that's certainly quite a story. I'm now talking with AARP Fraud Expert, Amy Nofziger. Amy, how are you?

[00:16:00] Amy Nofziger: Thank you for having me back.

[00:16:01] Julie: Amy is AARP's fraud expert and has been a guest on the podcast a number of times sharing her wealth of knowledge in how people can best protect themselves from con artists, particularly during the holiday season. Amy, we just listened to an incredible story about a scam that happened back in the 1920s. As we've discussed in this podcast, scams and con artists have been around for a long time, and unfortunately, it doesn't look like they're going to go away anytime soon. So as we start to prepare for the fast approaching holiday season, are there any modern holiday scams that we should be looking out for?

[00:16:36] Amy Nofziger: So that's a really good question, and I will say this, scams happen throughout the whole year regardless which holiday is coming up, but one of the things we know is during the holiday season, we are so busy, we're not necessarily preparing ourselves so to speak for that next phone call, or for the letter in the mail. So what I think the scammers do is they play on us just being so busy, to then go and victimize us even harder during the holiday season. They know how busy we are. So some of the things that we certainly see during the holiday season are increased phone calls to your house, right? Scammers know that you're going to be home more, you're going to be waiting for family, you're going to be wrapping presents, you're going to be doing whatever we do during the holiday season. So really, watch out for any unsolicited phone calls that come into your house, and one of the best pieces of advice, and it's so, so simple, is I like to ask people to put a refusal script by their phone. So this could be even as small as a post-it note that just sits on your phone that says, "Remember, this might be a scammer. Do not give any personal information, bank account information, credit card number, and certainly, no gift cards," right? 'Cause that's one of the things that scammers wants are these prepaid gift cards. So right what that does is if you're cooking dinner and the phone rings and you quickly pick it up, all of a sudden you remember, it might be a scammer, so you're putting up your arsenal. Some other things that we see are definitely phishing emails. So this is where you might get an email from even a shipping company that says, "Hey, Miss Nofziger, we have a package for you, but we tried to deliver it and it was undeliverable. Please click on this link and verify your information so that we can get the package out to you." Once again, we are so busy, and we're expecting a lot of packages this time of the year, so we might click on that link and certainly when we do click on that link, they're going to be asking us for personal information, and potentially your credit card and bank account information as well.

[00:18:36] Julie: You know, the holiday season can be a very emotional time for people. How do con artists use this to their advantage to separate you from your money?

[00:18:44] Amy Nofziger: So what they do is they get you to think, just like you said, they get you to think emotionally. During the holiday season can often um be a time where maybe we are separated from our families, and so one of the things that we know is that the grandparent scam actually might ramp up during the holiday season because social isolation is a huge problem in our country, and not all families are getting together during the holiday season. So the scammer might call Grandma and pretend to be their grandson and say that they're out of the country, maybe they're on college break, and they went out of the country with a bunch of friends, they got arrested, and they need your help fast. And there's grandma sitting there thinking, oh my gosh, I have to help him. I'm the only one that can help him right now. What do I need to do? And so certainly then the scammer has control over grandma's emotions and can pretty much tell her to do whatever he wants her to do, which we always know ends with grandma sending money. So that's, again, that's where that little post card or that little post-it note by the phone that just kind of jars you back into that cognitive thinking, and not that emotional thinking is really important. One of the other things that I like to remind people; if you are with family and friends this holiday season, this is the perfect time, as a group, to even just have a conversation about frauds and scams. Right, you’re together, and you want to do it in a way that really engages everybody in the conversation, not in a paternalistic way like; do this, don't do that, never do this. Say, hey Mom, Dad, did you read that article, or did you listen to the AARP podcast and hear about this scam? What would you do if someone called you and said that your grandchild was in trouble, or that you needed you know, a virus update on your computer? How would you handle that? And actually kind of roleplay in a fun way for people to understand what kind of scams are going on. That's one of the things that I've recommended to adult children, in my whole career, on how to kind of discuss this, sometimes sensitive, subject with older loved ones in their life, and that roleplaying or the current events is a really great way to do it, and then it doesn't, you know, victim blame, so to speak about getting upset with the older person. I actually had a friend text me yesterday that said their mother was a victim of the tech support scam. She had gotten a phone call that her computer was, um, had a virus and only they could get it off, so they remote accessed into her computer, and then I asked, you know, I said, did she send money, credit cards? And he said, prepaid gift cards. And I went over the steps that I do with anybody, but one of the things that I said is whatever you do, do not get upset with your mom. Make sure you tell her that there are hundreds of thousands of victims of this scam every year, and that's why it's a really good scam, and the scammers are really good at what they do, but if you yell at her, she's going to shut down and she's not going to communicate with you anymore. So that's again, that's why around the holiday season it's a perfect opportunity to have these conversations with the people in your life.

[00:21:43] Julie: I really love that idea of the post-it. We haven't heard that on this show yet before, so that's a really, really great tip.

[00:21:49] Amy Nofziger: Well it's interesting 'cause it's so simple. But um, even myself, um, I still have a landline, yes, and if I'm, um, you know cleaning, running around my house and the phone rings, and I run over, and I see what's on caller ID, you know, don't trust caller ID, 'cause right, it might be a spoofed number, but you look over and you're like, oh, I'll pick it up, right, 'cause you're just busy, you're just doing. But if that little tiny note, right there, kind of jars you back into the present day, into the present moment and says, ah, this might be a scammer looking for personal information, then you can pick up the phone and actually be in control of it, and not them be in control of you.

[00:22:27] Julie: But where should people go to actually report it?

[00:22:29] Amy Nofziger: You know, really, I like to say any open door, right, so wherever you feel comfortable reporting it, report it, because reporting it is the most important thing, but you know, AARP does have its AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline, and so I'm certainly going to have people go there if they don't want to go to their local law enforcement or to their Attorney General's Office, and we have trained volunteers who pick up the phone and they're peers, right? They are getting these scam calls just like yourself, and they sit there, and they talk to you, and they listen to your story, and most importantly, they listen without judgment. They're not in a hurry to get your information and get off the phone, but we've had volunteers talk to people, you know, our average call I think is about 22 minutes. I mean that's a considerable amount of time, 'cause we want you to one, report your, your victimization of a scam, we want you to know the steps that you can take potentially to get money back if that's a possibility, 'cause in a lot of these cases, [00:23:54.13] the money is gone. If you need to report it to law enforcement, we'll certainly help you get to the right law enforcement agency to report it. But then we want you to feel empowered when you get off the phone, and our volunteers are very skilled at doing that, because we know it's not if you're going to get another phone call or another scam email or letter, it's when. So our volunteers will really help you set up your arsenal and prepare you for the next time you're going to get one of those scam calls, so then the next time, you do not lose money.

[00:23:58] Julie: Amy, as always, thank you so much for being a guest on our podcast. Is there any final time you want to share?

[00:24:03] Amy Nofziger: Um, I don't think so, but just remember this holiday season it's like the scammers are out there 365 days a year, but during the holiday season we're certainly a lot busier, so just keep your guard up.

[00:24:15] Julie: Okay. Thanks so much.

[00:24:16] Amy Nofziger: Thank you.


[00:24:21] Julie: Frank, Amy shares a lot of great tips on how to keep our money safe this holiday season, from keeping a refusal script next to the phone to being on high alert for phishing emails. She mentioned gift cards, and how scammers want them to be used as a form of payment, but what else should we know about gift cards during this busy time of year?

[00:24:38] Frank Abagnale: First of all, gift cards are high on many people's wish lists for the holiday gift giving. Scammers know how to compromise cards that you can buy on those kiosks in retail stores. So you put money on the card and give it as a gift only to learn that the card has no balance by the time your recipient goes to use it. Avoid buying them off of an easily accessible rack. If you do buy them, inspect the packaging on the back of the card, and make sure the pin hasn't been exposed.

[00:25:07] Julie: And Frank, is it still common that identity theft is still from going through people's trash, like garbage pickers or is it still only online hackers?

[00:25:17] Frank Abagnale: No, it's both, because people throw away such stuff with such information on it. As you know, we mention to people a lot of times that even a catalog you receive, if you look on the back it has your name and address, it has a bar code, it has a source code, it has an ID number. I'm a true believer that every little piece of information leads to another piece of information. So it may seem harmless to you, but that's just the start of them then searching more information about you, and they get information from other websites. So to me, it's much safer to just destroy all those things with a shredder, and if you have a lot of things like back taxes and records and it's very hard to shred a bunch of uh boxes of material, so then you look for like maybe an AARP shredding event where you can go down, it's free. Bring all those boxes down, you stand there and watch them shred it and get rid of it; that's a great way to get rid of all those old records, but just don't throw them in a garbage can because someone will go through it, and they'll find information out of them.

[00:26:10] Julie: Got it. Frank, do you have any tips for when people are feeling generous this holiday season?

[00:26:16] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, this is where we get, during the holiday season, a lot of charities, GoFundMe. If somebody says, oh, this family has no toys for these children, they've had this accident occur, and you don’t really know and it's, it's sorry that that's the state of affair, but you really don't know is it real, so again, I always recommend to people, if you're not familiar with a charity, but it sounds like something you'd like to donate to, there are so many resources. You can call the Fraud Watch Network's line, and you can talk to someone out in their call center and ask them about the, the charity. They can advise you whether it's legitimate, not legitimate. You have the Better Business Bureau in your community that has information about that. Certainly your Attorney General's Office has their consumer protection people, and they can tell you that's not a, a charity we know about or that's a charity we've had bad experience with, or people have complained about. So there's a lot of things you can do and check, but before I would part with any money and give it to a charity, I just want to make sure it's going to the right place and for the right reason before I'd give that money. So you have to stop and do a little research and make sure that you're giving the money to the right charity.

[00:27:21] Julie: Great. And as you always say, Frank, stop and verify.

[00:27:25] Frank Abagnale: Yeah.

[00:27:25] Julie: Also, one last piece of information I want to make sure we share with our listeners today, is that there is a scam running right now targeting younger people via text message. It reads, "Hi, it's Santa. Make Christmas magical for someone special with a letter from Santa this year. All you need to do is use this special code and get a discount." But here's the deal; what the fraudsters want you to do is enter a bunch of your personal information because a young person's ID is a hot commodity, as it's used in a number of scams. And then the young people will never know that their identification is being used. So if you, your children, or grandchildren get a text similar to this one this holiday season, don't reply. So folks, you heard it here from The Perfect Scam podcast. Be safe out there this holiday season. Scammers are out there all year long, but around the holidays, they're busier than ever. Be cautious about opening emails, what links you're clicking on, who you're sharing personal information with, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, oftentimes it is. Frank, thanks so much for being here.

[00:28:27] Frank Abagnale: Thank you for having me.

[00:28:30] Julie: If you or someone you know has been the victim of a fraud or scam, call AARP's Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Thank you to our team of scambusters; producer, Brook Ellis, our audio engineer, Julio Gonzales, and of course, my co-host, Frank Abagnale. Be sure to find us on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP - The Perfect Scam, I'm Julie Getz.


Journalist Alex Palmer tells the story of his great-granduncle, colorful conman John Duval Gluck, who created the Santa Claus Association. Before Gluck started his charity, letters from New York City children to Santa were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association in 1913. The organization claimed to use the donations it collected to answer children’s letters to Santa and deliver them Christmas gifts. For a time, the charity did just that. For 15 years money and gifts flowed to the association, and Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity. But efforts to crack down on corruption in New York ultimately resulted in the uncovering of irregularities that would lead to the charity’s downfall. 

TIPS:  If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam or would like to report fraud call The Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360Anyone can become the victim of a scam, it’s important to be vigilant and know your vulnerabilities. For instance, if you are looking for a job you are more vulnerable to a work-at-home scam.

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