Victim stories

Every year, the Competition Bureau receives an average of 20,000 requests and complaints. These include complaints regarding mass marketing fraud, which is fraud by mail, telephone and Internet. Here are some examples of the kinds of complaints received by the Bureau.

Antivirus software sales scams

Mario was targeted by an antivirus scam, in which a telemarketer claiming to represent a legitimate company offered to fix any of his computer's problems. Here is his story:

I received a call from a man who claimed to be working for a software company. It sounded like a company I was familiar with so I did not hang up immediately, as I usually do with telemarketers.

He said that my computer had been sending out error messages, and asked if I was finding that my computer was working a little more slowly recently. While I was thinking about it, he said that there was a widely circulating virus that his company had been made aware of, and that they were able to offer an easy, low cost solution to the problem. He even directed me to a place on my computer that showed error reports. It all seemed to make sense.

He sounded convincing and I thought if he could fix my computer for little effort and cost, then why not? So I gave him my credit card number to pay the $60 fee, and followed his instructions to allow him to remotely access my computer in order to fix the problem.

Later, I was speaking to a friend about the call and she said she had read a warning about something that sounded similar in the newspaper. She said that some people had found their credit cards billed for much more than they had agreed to pay, and that by having allowed someone to access my computer, I may have given them a way to read my keystrokes and steal my personal information. I had no idea they could do that, particularly since I had been watching the screen the whole time the telemarketer had been connected to my computer.

I am feeling a little foolish for having fallen for this, but he seemed so credible, particularly when he pointed to the error display on my computer. I didn't realize that someone could get access to all my personal information the way my friend had described.

To protect myself, I cancelled my credit card and I called my bank to close my account and open a new one, as I have all my banking information online. I then reported the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Competition Bureau.

If I receive a call like this again, I will just say no and hang up.

Free-offer scams

Isabelle fell prey to a continuity scam, in which she agreed to make one small credit card payment and then was charged repeatedly for a larger amount. Here is her story:

I was using my Smartphone a few months ago on my way to work and I came across an ad for a free trial offer for a new diet product. I hadn't been biking because it was winter and had gained a few pounds so I thought it was worth a look.

I decided to give it a try as it referred to celebrity endorsements, and had pictures and testimonials of those who had used it and it seemed to work. There was even an article on a news site in which a doctor said she recommended the product to her patients.

A few weeks later, I received the product in the mail and began to use it, but gave up within a few days after I did not see immediate results.

On my next credit card statement, I noticed a $22.95 charge from the same company that had sent the free product. I was surprised because I hadn't ordered or received anything other than the original free trial. In fact, I was not sure how they billed me until I remembered there was a $2.95 shipping fee on the free trial that I had paid by credit card.

I called the company and when I was finally able to speak to someone, I told them that I had never ordered the product and I wanted a refund. They told me that I had ordered the product when I accepted the trial offer online. I had no recollection of doing so. They said it was explained in the initial offer. I said that, even if that was the case, I did not receive anything and I had no interest in the product. They assured me that I would not be billed again.

On my next credit card statement, I was charged the same amount again. I tried calling the company, but the number was constantly busy. After a bit of research on the Internet, I realized that this was a scam and that the news article turned out to be a fake.

I called my credit card company to report the fraudulent charges and cancel my card. I then reported the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Competition Bureau. I will not be signing up for any "free" offers in the future, and certainly won't give my credit card number to get one.

Debt-relief scams

Tom was targeted by a debt consolidation scam, in which a telemarketer offers a service to reduce a person's debt by 50% or more. Here is his story:

I was contacted by a company, and was asked if I needed help with my debt situation. I was interested in what they could do and they explained that they could lower my debt by at least half if I qualified.

The caller asked for a lot of my personal information, including my Social Insurance Number, credit and banking information so he could analyse my situation. He indicated that I qualified and that they could lower my debt from more than $25,000 to approximately $11,500 if I signed up.

The company said that with all my information, they would negotiate a lower rate from my bank and lower my monthly payments. The fee was almost $3,000, but it seemed like a good deal considering how much it would reduce my debt.

They took the fee from my bank account but, after a couple months, nothing else had happened. When I asked my bank about it, they said they had never been in contact with the company.

When I called the company back, they told me they were negotiating with the bank and everything was fine. That didn't make any sense, so I asked for proof. They transferred my call and then hung up on me. When I called back, they became hostile.

I contacted my bank to open a new account so that the company couldn't access any more of my money, and I reported the whole incident to the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. I wish I had done some research on the company and checked with my bank before agreeing to the service, and providing my personal, credit and banking information.

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