Trying to Reach the North Pole? Check Your Wi-Fi

When Alan Kerr’s daughters confessed that they no longer believed in Santa Claus, he shared a confession of his own.

“I told them the truth,” he said. “I work for Santa.”

Mr. Kerr, an economist by training who has worked for the Canadian government, is the man behind, a website featuring giggling elves and a sparkly cursor that offers games, quizzes and the option to send a message to the North Pole.

Each year, more than a million messages reach Mr. Kerr’s home office in Calgary, he said, mostly asking for puppies, bikes and, more recently, iPhones. In some of the messages, however, children reveal hardships like being bullied at school or struggling with an illness.

And within a few moments — thanks to a software program that identifies keywords in the message, including location, age and level of “goodness” — the sender receives a personalized message from Santa, noting the puppy request or address change, and offering words of encouragement or ways to get help.

Yes, Virginia, children still handwrite wishes to the North Pole and whisper them into Santa’s ear at the mall. But today’s insta-culture demands responses faster than Santa’s sleigh.

Last year, the company created 23 million personalized messages worldwide, some of which were filmed with a Santa Claus from a village near the North Pole.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t out there, she added.

“One of the concerns about shady letter companies is that they may not be ripping off parents today but rather stealing children’s identity, which parents may not notice for years (if ever),” Ms. Hutt said in an email.

The bureau suggests being cautious of any site or service that requires personally identifiable information that could be used for identity theft, adding that parents should never share a child’s birth date.

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