The Competition Bureau, along with the Fraud Prevention Forum, plays an important role in helping Canadians get the information they need to be informed and confident consumers. Consumers also have a role to play in stopping fraud by arming themselves with the facts and reporting fraud when they encounter it.
Thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life are defrauded each year. There is no typical fraud victim in Canada. Fraud targets Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life. Recognizing fraud is the first step to better protecting yourself.
Fraudsters are professional criminals that know what they are doing. Fraudsters rely on some basic techniques to be successful. These include:
- developing professional-looking marketing materials;
- providing believable answers for your tough questions;
- impersonating government agencies, legitimate businesses, websites, charities, and causes;
- pretending to be your ordinary supplier;
- hiding the true details in the fine print;
- preying on areas of vulnerability, including those needing help with loans or finding employment;
- asking for fees in advance of promised services;
- threatening legal action to collect on alleged contracts;
- falsely claiming affiliation with reliable sources, such as legitimate news sites to support their products or services;
- and exchanging victim lists with other fraudsters.
Reporting Fraud is Critical
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than 5% of the total number of fraud victims report their experiences to law enforcement agencies. By reporting a scam, you provide law enforcement with the information they need to stop fraudsters and help prevent others from becoming victims. The information you provide is important!
How to Report Fraud
Fraudulent or suspicious activity can be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, through its website at www.antifraudcentre.ca, or by telephone at 1-888-495-8501.
Report instances of misleading or deceptive marketing practices to the Competition Bureau using the online complaint form or by telephone at 1-800-348-5358. If you are a victim of fraud, let your local police force know.
If you decide to file a complaint, it is important that you keep any evidence you may have related to your complaint. Evidence may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- cancelled cheques
- certified or other mail receipts
- chatroom or newsgroup text
- credit card receipts
- shipping envelopes
- money order receipts
- pamphlets or brochures
- phone bills
- printed or electronic copies of emails
- printed or electronic copies of web pages
- wire receipts
- notes taken as events take place
Keep evidence items in a safe location in the event that you are requested to provide them. This information may form an important part of any investigation. The information you provide could be used as evidence during a prosecution.
Watch out for fraudsters who attempt to reach out to you and then end up taking your money! By increasing your awareness of the vast array of scams, you can learn how to recognize their different forms.
Below are examples of common scams. Click on the links for more information on how these scams work and how to protect yourself.
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.
Note: Certain details have been changed to protect the identities of the victims.
Fraud Prevention Month
There are many different types of fraud and scams perpetrated in Canada every day. In this interactive quiz, you will find questions to test your awareness of some of these scams. There are also helpful tips to educate you on how to avoid falling victim to fraud.
Once you have answered all the questions with True or False, you will be given a score on your fraud awareness level. Compare your results with those of your friends!
Remember, Fraud: Recognize it! Report It! Stop It!
True or False
- You see an advertisement in a newspaper, a magazine, or online for a job opportunity offering double the amount you currently earn, with little effort. You are asked for an upfront investment to receive an information package. No experience is required!
True or false: This is an incredible opportunity you shouldn't pass up. Answer
- While online, you click a link on the latest breaking news about an energy saving device, a weight loss product, a cure for a disease, or some other seemingly miraculous product. This news site is reporting on the latest findings, so it must be reliable—it shows the logos of known and reputable news organizations, celebrity endorsements, and has real users comments.
True or false: This product will certainly deliver on its promises. Answer
You are considering buying a product, but before you do, you decide to check online for reviews of the product. You notice that the product has an almost perfect approval rating and all reviews are extremely positive. It is described by many as the greatest product of its kind on the market, with no mention of any disadvantages or complaints.
True or false: You should rush to buy the product while it is still in stock! Answer
- Websites that offer health products with claims of a “scientific breakthrough” and include complex technical information, success stories and physician endorsements must be the latest, revolutionary treatment available!
True or false: This health product is surely a wonder cure. Answer
- You receive an email or telephone call advising you that you have won a tropical vacation through a contest that you don't remember entering. The message indicates you should keep this winning a secret and the only thing you need to pay upfront are the taxes. Congratulations!
True or false: You should pack your bags right away! Answer
- While checking your social networking account, you notice a number of advertisements offering everything from debt-relief products to incredible work opportunities. You trust the social networking site has screened all the advertisements running on their site, so the ads must be true!
True or false: You can rely on the truthfulness of the ads. Answer
- You receive a phone call or an email from someone claiming to work for a software company, maybe even a company you recognize. You are asked if, or informed that, your computer is running slowly. An offer is made to fix your computer once you grant remote access or download a software from a specific website.
True or false: This sounds like trouble! I haven’t contacted this company so they don’t know how my computer is running. Answer
- While online or on your mobile phone, you come across an advertisement promoting a free-offer of a product, such as a ring-tone.
True or false: Getting a freebie is risk-free! Click :) Answer
- You post an ad online and are happy to agree to payment by an interested party. You receive a cheque for more than the agreed upon amount. The purchaser says to simply return the difference through a money transfer service.
True or false: This seems a sensible solution. Answer
- You notice an ad offering a terrific price on a product that you find difficult to ignore. It might be featured on a website, in a newspaper, on the radio an on .There is some small print but you are in a hurry and decide to take advantage of this great offer.
True or false: You better not miss out on this great offer, sign up now! Answer
False. Beware! Job opportunity scams in the marketplace are often designed simply to steal your money. Often these fraudulent schemes require you to pay money before you even begin to work or before you are given details on the type of opportunities available. Sometimes there really are no jobs available. These fraudulent work schemes could also demand much more of your time than you could ever have imagined. In the end, often what seemed too good to be true turns out to be just that. To avoid wasting your time and money, watch for the following claims that may warn you that a job opportunity might be fraudulent:
- Claims of little effort and exaggerated claims about the amount of money you can earn;
- Requirements for you to pay money upfront; and
- Claims that "no experience" is required
False. Beware! Just because a website looks like a news site, or appears to be affiliated with a well-known news source, does not mean that is in fact the case. Many fraudsters create fake news sites to promote bogus products with unfounded and misleading claims. Look to well-known, reputable sources when searching for information online.
False. Be vigilant when dealing with online reviews or testimonials. There is no guarantee that they have been posted by a real consumer. Some companies create fake online reviews to make their products or services appear more desirable. Fraudsters know that customer reviews help many shoppers make purchasing decisions and can be devious when fabricating fake ones. They may even construct reviews that include spelling mistakes or other small errors to make them seem legitimate.
Make sure you read a variety of reviews, and don’t put too much faith in the first one you see. Fraudsters may continue to post fake reviews in order to keep the most recent comments positive. You may also be able to check the reviewer’s account to see if they have written other reviews. If the reviewer has posted only positive testimonials, you should be sceptical. The account may have been created for the purpose of making fake reviews.
False. If the first and only place you learn about a health product, for anything from weight loss to alternative cancer treatments, is through a sales pitch on the Internet, be suspicious. Fraudsters load their sites with confusing technical medical terms to make you believe that they know what they are talking about. Ads that are long on technical jargon may be short on proof. Look for well-known, independent, credible sources of information before you buy, and always talk to a health care professional before trying any new treatment. The photo of that “doctor” on the website endorsing a product or treatment could very well be an actor!
Further, there’s no guarantee that “John Smith of Hometown, Canada” has achieved any results or is even a real person! The Competition Bureau has challenged companies who use testimonials that were not independent. Fraudsters want you to believe that, if the product has worked for other people, it will for you too. Be sceptical and talk to your health care professional.
False. Beware! The Competition Bureau frequently receives complaints regarding scam sweepstakes or contests advising consumers they have hit the jackpot or won exciting vacations. Here are a few things to consider. Remember that legitimate sweepstakes:
- do not randomly select non-entrants to award prizes;
- do not use free email accounts (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) to communicate with you;
- do not tell you to keep your winnings secret;
- do not ask winners to pay any fees upfront (like taxes or a security deposit) to receive a prize; and
- do not ask for personal and banking details.
False. Beware! Just because an advertisement is running on a social networking site does not mean it is credible or reliable. While many advertisements are legitimate, fraudsters are always looking for new sources for advertising placement. They may try to mislead consumers with catchy headlines and graphics to entice you to their website where you may be cheated out of time and money. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
True. Granting someone the ability to control your computer can open the door to the installation of malicious software capable of capturing sensitive data kept online, including banking and personal identity information. As well, giving the caller your credit card number could lead to charges for a bogus service and the possibility of future charges without your consent. Further, getting rid of the malware may lead to significant charges by a reputable technician. Don’t reply to such calls or emails. If you are really experiencing problems with your computer, consult a reputable company.
False. There is a chance that you may be billed on a monthly basis for a service or product claiming to be free. Carefully read all the details of such offers. Text STOP if it results in charges to your mobile account.
False. This may be a common scam where the cheque is “no good”. You could end up being out of pocket for the amount of the cheque, plus what you sent to the "buyer" as well, if you already shipped the product. Always be careful when dealing with strangers—either selling or buying products or services—and be particularly careful whenever asked to wire money as you cannot get it back.
False. Be vigilant when evaluating ads and pricing information, particularly when there is fine print or a link to terms and conditions. Be alert for hidden fees to avoid paying more than you bargained for. Never give credit card or account details until you are sure you understand the offer. And when making price comparisons, ensure that the price you are comparing is the total price.
0/10 – 5/10: Low on the Fraud Awareness Meter. Take some time to further raise your awareness of fraud. The Competition Bureau has various tools to help you recognize scams and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Consumer tools on the website include: the updated fraud quiz; some common scams in the “Recognize it” section; victim stories that demonstrate how anyone can be a target of fraud; and other important tips on how to recognize, report and stop fraud.
6/10 – 9/10: Medium on the Fraud Awareness Meter. You may still benefit from more information on recognizing fraud. The Competition Bureau has various tools to help you recognize scams and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Consumer tools on the website include: the updated fraud quiz; some common scams in the “Recognize it” section; victim stories that demonstrate how anyone can be a target of fraud; and other important tips on how to recognize, report and stop fraud.
10/10: Perfect Score. Share your knowledge with friends by referring them to the Competition Bureau’s website where you will find various tools to help you recognize scams and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Consumer tools include: the updated fraud quiz; some common scams in the “Recognize it” section; victim stories that demonstrate how anyone can be a target of fraud; and other important tips on how to recognize, report and stop fraud.
If you think you may have been a vicitim of fraud, click here to report it.
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