Fraud and marketing scams result in the loss of millions of dollars every year by Canadians. Being aware of the different types of fraud and the myths that might allow fraudsters to gain your trust will protect you and your family from becoming victims.
Many Canadians fall victim to crimes of fraud, regardless of education, age or income.
Unfortunately, seniors are often targeted and victimized because of loneliness, lack of family support, a willingness to trust and health issues such as dementia.
Newcomers to Canada could be victimized because they may not have a good command of the language and might lack an understanding of Canadian laws and rights.
Students are also targeted by scammers with easy money and credit schemes.
Scammers use a variety of devious tactics to defraud unsuspecting victims, such as imitating well-known brands online and using deceptive claims to entice consumers through telemarketing, email or social media. Telephone scammers impersonating government, banking or law enforcement officials can cause panic in the individual answering the phone.
Mobile phone scams can be particularly deceptive. A scammer may call but hang up before the call can be answered, resulting in a missed call showing on the phone. There is the temptation to call to see who was phoning, and premium calling rates for the call will be charged.
Text message scams work in a similar way. Scammers send a text message that sounds like it is from a friend such as, “hi, I’m back! When are you free to catch up?” The number may not be recognized so out of curiosity a reply is sent and a premium rate is charged for the message, sometimes as much as $4 for each sent and/or received message.
Scams can also occur when making hotel reservations online. The booking website may look like a hotel or reward points site, but during the booking process you are transferred to another website that charges a fee for making the reservation. The fee may show up as taxes and fees on the booking. Always calculate the tax amount before confirming a booking. If you suspect you have been bumped to a different booking site, delete all of your credit information and shut down your internet browser.
Tips to protect yourself from fraud
- If you are suspicious, don’t be afraid to hang up the phone, delete an email message or close your internet connection.
- Before buying a product or service, carefully check out the company, their services, warranty and product. Read all contract information before agreeing to it.
- To verify the validity of a company, ask for the caller’s name, phone number, the name of the company or agency and the caller’s supervisor and phone number. Call these numbers to verify the company and ask the Better Business Bureau for references about the company.
- Guard your personal information about your finances, bank accounts, credit cards, social insurance and driver’s license numbers. Never give this information unless you can prove that the business is legitimate. There should never be a need to give your social insurance number on the internet.
- Always shred unwanted personal information, such as bank statements, credit card bills, unwanted receipts, cheques, pre-approved credit applications and old tax returns.
- Also shred any mail that you receive that has your name, address and personal information on it. This includes unsolicited credit cards.
- When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be fooled by the promise of a valuable prize in return for a low-cost purchase or schemes with unlimited income potential.
- As well, be extra cautious about phone calls, emails or mailings that offer international bonds or lottery tickets, a portion of a foreign dignitary’s bank account, free vacations or credit repair.
- To protect yourself, check your credit report every year and report problems immediately. Order a copy of your credit report from both Equifax Canada (www.equifax.com) and Trans-Union Canada (www.transunion.ca). Each credit bureau may have different information about how you have used credit in the past. Ordering your own credit report has no effect on your credit score.
- If a scam artist contacts you, or if you’ve been defrauded, report it. Your reports are vital to law enforcement agencies’ anti-fraud efforts. Call your local police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 888-495-8501.
Fraud Protection Month
The Canadian Competition Bureau is working to protect Canadians by cracking down on deceptive marketers and ensuring consumers have the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. It has designated March as Fraud Protection Month as a way to increase awareness of potential scams. Each day during March, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre will issue social media posts with information about a different scam. Follow on Twitter at @canantifraud or like on Facebook at the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre.
The Little Black Book of Scams
To increase consumer awareness of the many different kinds of fraud, the Competition Bureau has also produced the Little Black Book of Scams. It provides tips on how to protect yourself and debunks common myths that might allow fraudsters to gain your trust. The information in this booklet can help you recognize, reject and report fraud.
The booklet is available online at www.competitionbureau.gc.ca. (PDF format) To obtain alternative formats, such as regular print or braille, contact the Information Centre, Competition Bureau, 50 Victoria Street, Gatineau, Que. K1A 0C9. The booklet is also available by calling toll free at 800‑348‑5358 or TTY (for hearing impaired) at 866‑694‑8389.
Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.