March is coming to an end, but it was Fraud Prevention Month and there were a number of national initiatives to raise public awareness about the growing arena of scammers. Spearheaded by the Competition Bureau, Fraud Prevention Month is a unique effort that brings together 125 law enforcement agencies and public and private sector organizations to combat fraud.
Thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life are defrauded each year. There is no typical fraud victim in Canada, but some scams focus on seniors as their victim of choice. Fraudsters are professional criminals that know what they are doing. Fraudsters rely on some basic techniques to be successful, which 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;
- exchanging victim lists with other fraudsters.
Here are some tips to help protect yourself from fraud:
- Do not be fooled by the promise of a valuable prize in return for a low-cost purchase.
- Be extra cautious about calls, emails or mailings offering international bonds or lottery tickets, a portion of a foreign dignitary’s bank account, free vacations, credit repair or schemes with unlimited income potential.
- Do not be afraid to hang up the phone, delete the email or close your Internet connection.
- Do not purchase a product or service without carefully checking out the product, service and company.
- Do not be afraid to request further documentation from the caller so you can verify the validity of the company.
- Do not disclose personal information about your finances, bank accounts, credit cards, social insurance and driver’s license numbers to any business that cannot prove it is legitimate.
- Shred unwanted personal information such as bank statements, credit card bills, unwanted receipts, cheques, pre-approved credit applications and old tax returns.
- Check your credit report every year and report problems immediately.
The Canadian edition of The Little Black Book of Scams is a compact and easy to use reference guide filled with information Canadians can use to protect themselves against a variety of common scams. https://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca. It debunks common myths about scams, provides contact information for reporting a scam to the correct authority, and offers a step-by-step guide for scam victims to reduce their losses and avoid becoming repeat victims.
Consumers and businesses can consult The Little Black Book of Scams to avoid falling victim to social media and mobile phone scams, fake charities and lotteries, dating and romance scams, and many other schemes used to defraud Canadians of their money and personal information. Their website also contains some creative, short, informative videos on 12 different types of scams, schemes, and fraudulent activities.
If you spot a scam or have been scammed, get help. Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501), the Competition Bureau (1-800-348-5358), or your local police (613-966-0882) for assistance. Scammers are imaginative and manipulative – they know how to push your buttons to produce the response they want.