Sophisticated scams cost Canadians millions of dollars each year.
Canadians continue to lose millions of dollars each year to Internet or mail fraud, deceptive telemarketing and identity theft.
“Statistics showing one million adult Canadians have fallen victim to mass marketing fraud highlight the need for more consumer education and vigilance,” said Sheridan Scott, Commissioner of Competition Bureau Canada.
A 2007 Environics survey, conducted for the Competition Bureau Canada, found that over half of Canadians reported they had been targeted for mass marketing fraud alone – and one million of these have fallen victim.
The study, which surveyed 6,116 Canadians, showed that fraud affects people of all ages. While it has been widely reported that victims are more likely to be older and poorly educated, the study suggested that Canadians under 30 and middle-income earners were the most likely to be defrauded. (Read the study.)
Mass-marketing fraud was defined as that committed by telephone, mail and over the Internet, including deceptive email. The survey focused only on fraud that targeted consumers and did not examine attempts to defraud businesses.
The telephone was the favoured tool used by most fraudsters, the study reported.
Top scams* reported in the past year include:
High-pressure-sales-pitch vacation. The scam: you’re offered a gift or reward to attend a sales presentation, after which you’re subjected to high-pressure sales tactics and/or misleading offers. (Target: 34 per cent. Victim: 0.5 per cent.)
Advance-fee vacation. The scam: you’re asked to pay an advance fee to secure or hold a discount or free vacation. (Target: 33 per cent. Victim: 0.4 per cent.)
Prize/lottery/sweepstakes. The scam: you’re given the ‘good news’ that you won, or may have an opportunity to win, a prize but must first purchase something or pay a fee in advance. (Target: 27 per cent. Victim: 0.3 per cent.)
Bogus health product/cure. The scam: you’re asked to buy a health product or cure that does not work as advertised. (Target: 27 per cent. Victim: 1.9 per cent.)
Investment fraud. The scam: you’re offered an investment opportunity that promises higher-than-normal returns, but all the money ‘invested’ is lost. (Target: 15 per cent. Victim: 0.2 per cent.)
Work from home schemes. The scam: for a fee, you’re promised the means, materials and/or know-how for making thousands of dollars while working from the comfort of your home. (Target: 14 per cent. Victim: 0.5 per cent.)
And according to Phonebusters, the RCMP anti-fraud call-centre, consumers have reported an increase of emails sent by a supposed hit man hired to ‘assassinate’ the recipient. The sender demands a large sum of money in return for not carrying out the mission. For more information on this and other scams, click here.
Ways to protect yourself
• 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.
• Shred unwanted personal information such as bank statements, credit card bills, unwanted receipts, cheques, pre-approved credit applications and old tax returns.