HOUSTON - Elf on a Shelf is a Christmas tradition, where parents take a cute toy elf and every day set it up in different places and positions. Its purpose is so kids know that Santa’s elves are watching and reporting back about their behavior.
But this year, it’s an alleged scammer that seems to have landed herself on Santa’s naughty list.
"You stole Christmas, you kind of stole a little tiny piece of my Christmas joy," said Jessica Holloway of Montgomery, Texas.
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Holloway is a mom of two young children, she says a profile advertised an elf on the shelf kit in a private group that she was a part of. She paid a $40 deposit but when it came time to meet in person and collect her kit, she never got a response.
"To find out someone, who is looking to almost do harm in a way is in that group, where you’re looking for a neighbor to befriend is scary." Holloway said.
Jennifer McCoy is also a mother of two who resides here in Houston. She says the same exact Facebook profile advertised the elf kits in her neighborhood Facebook group; she trusted it so she paid $25 for a kit that never came.
"She told everybody she just moved to the neighborhood… I think on our neighborhood Facebook pages or moms groups we feel like somebody’s in there, because they answered a couple questions right and we automatically trust them," said McCoy.
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And while totals less than $50 may not seem like a lot, a new Facebook group created for victims claiming they were scammed by the same exact profile now has more than 700 members and counting.
"To think all of these people, 600 people at $25 a pop, it could be upwards of almost $20,000." Holloway said.
These moms telling FOX 26, they’ve learned a valuable lesson.
"You try to look for the good in people and situations, it’s best to cover yourself and do your transactions as a business transaction on these money-sharing apps," said Holloway.
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McCoy says she’ll be more cautious, "Ask more questions, even if someone is in the neighborhood groups or providing a service or just coming to pick something up from your front porch," she said.
Local authorities are working to make sure the alleged scammer learns a lesson of their own.
Houston police posted to their Facebook page Thursday afternoon saying their organized crime squad is investigating. Pearland police sent also out a scam alert asking anyone who’s been ripped off to come forward.
Houston police say if you live in Houston and you were a victim of this scam you should call (713) 308-0935 and leave a detailed voicemail.