Strike back against fraud

Identity theft and other types of fraud drain billions of dollars from the economy, say experts.

Identity theft and other types of fraud continue to be a threat not only to personal privacy but the health of the economy. Thousands of Canadians fall victim to fraud each year, undermining consumer confidence and draining billions of dollars from the economy, experts say.

“The damage from economic crimes may extend far beyond the financial loss incurred by the immediate victim. These crimes undermine the financial health of our entire country. When you learn to spot and report counterfeit money, marketing scams, and other forms of fraud, you do more than protect yourself: you foil criminals and help ensure a safe marketplace for all Canadians,” David Dodge, Governor of the Bank of Canada, said in a press release.

To mark Fraud Prevention Month, watchdog groups, government agencies and law enforcement organizations will host anti-fraud events across the country. During the month of March “Scam Jams” and other such events will give consumers ammunition to strike back against fraud. This includes information on recognizing the signs of fraud, reporting fraud to authorities – and finally, stopping it.

“Sophisticated scams are being invented daily. Whether it’s Internet or mail fraud, deceptive telemarketing or identity theft, fraud is a serious problem,” said Competition Commissioner Sheridan Scott. “It can steal Canadians’ money, their identity and even their self-respect. Law enforcement agencies cannot investigate, press charges and prosecute scamsters unless Canadians help us by reporting these crimes.”

One out of every six adult Canadians – more than 4.2 million people – have been affected by identity theft either directly or through their immediate household, according to a recent survey. Identity thieves steal personal information such as a Social Insurance Number, birth date or driver’s license to fraudulently apply for credit cards, loans and government documents such as passports.

The poll, conducted in 2006 by the Strategic Counsel for the Competition Bureau of Canada, suggested that 31 per cent of adult Canadians have been victims of mass marketing fraud by phone, mail or email.

Yet people are unlikely to report fraud to the authorities, the survey indicated.

“It remains the case that few people make a significant effort to report or resolve an incident of marketing fraud,” the report said, with 43 per cent saying that they “did nothing.”

The top marketing frauds perpetuated in Canada include:

1. Advance-fee frauds. Targeting people with bad credit, the scammers offer to send a credit card in the mail in return for a fee.

2. Lottery schemes. You’re offered a lottery prize – which you can only collect after sending money to cover certain costs.

3. Work at home schemes. For a fee, you’re promised the means and know-how for making thousands of dollars from the comfort of your home.

How to protect yourself from fraud*

• Don’t be fooled by the promise of a valuable prize in return for a low-cost purchase.

• Don’t hesitate to hang up the phone, delete the email or close your Internet connection.