Competition Bureau Canada

Competition Bureau Canada

December 10, 2009 16:52 ET

Avoid the Gift of Fraud and Other Unplanned Expenses!

GATINEAU, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Dec. 10, 2009) - Holiday shoppers may find themselves paying for more than just gifts this holiday season. The Competition Bureau is warning consumers to be on the look out for scams and other unplanned surprises that could make the holiday shopping experience less pleasant.

Bogus Offers from Scammers

Watch out for scammers who may attempt to reach out to you in a variety of ways. New scams are being invented daily. Scam artists are well organized and use the latest technologies and strategies to victimize Canadians. It is illegal under the Competition Act to send out mail or email solicitations that contain representations that are false or misleading in a material respect. For example, consumers have been contacted via email and through the mail by scammers attempting to fraudulently obtain credit card information and other personal information.

There are a variety of scams being used, including:

- Consumers receiving false offers of promotional deals, for instance a product originally priced at $100 for only $10. Victims are asked to provide credit card information by email or personal information via mail, along with a cheque for $10.

- Job-seekers receiving phony notices of job offers from well-known retailers. Consumers are required to provide personal information via email or through the mail, and may be asked to deposit cheques, which turn out to be counterfeit.

- Consumers receiving mock notifications suggesting they have won a prize, a trip or a gift card promotion, and requiring the consumer to provide additional personal information. Scammers may even require payments to claim the prize, which is illegal.

Tips for Consumers:

1. Do not provide personal information or credit card information unless you know exactly how the information will be used. Ask questions, read the Privacy Policy on the Web site, and check with other sources such as the Better Business Bureau to determine credibility.

2. Take time to think about the offer. Scam artists will pressure you to act now, saying the offer will expire or go to another person if you do not decide right away. This is a sign of a scam.

3. Be aware that responding to collect a prize for a contest that you did not enter could mean that your name is added to a "sucker list" that is made available to other deceptive and fraudulent marketers.

4. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Brokerage Fees on Goods Shipped from the United States

Some shoppers are looking for bargains in the United States, and many purchases are being made online or by telephone, which may require the payment of customs duties and taxes when entering Canada. This is where consumers sometimes encounter unplanned-for surprises: brokerage fees.

Unlike duties and taxes, which are paid to the government, brokerage fees cover a service offered by postal services and couriers to process goods through the Canada Border Services Agency, which saves purchasers the trouble of doing this themselves. Consumers may not become aware of such fees until it is too late. The fees are often poorly disclosed on sellers' Web sites and the amounts can be substantial. For example, a purchase of just over $100 may result in nearly $30 in brokerage fees.

Tips for Consumers:

1. Ask sellers about any customs brokerage fees. If the sellers appear uncertain, check with the service they use.

2. If the seller allows you to arrange your own shipping, research the costs and choose accordingly. Customs brokerage fees can vary widely. The fees are often included in goods delivered by air.

Consumers who suspect they have been the victim of deceptive business practices or who want information on the application of the Competition Act should contact the Bureau's Information Centre at 1-800-348-5358, or visit the Web site at www.competitionbureau.gc.ca.

For more information and tips on how to protect yourself:

1. Competition Bureau's Fraud Prevention Web page: http://competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/h_00122.html; and

2. The Canadian Anti-fraud Centre's How Can I recognize a Scam? Web Page: http://www.phonebusters.com/english/recognizeit_consumertip.html

The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency that contributes to the prosperity of Canadians by protecting and promoting competitive markets and enabling informed consumer choice.

Enquiry / Complaint Form: http://competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/frm-eng/PJSH-6X9KQY

Contact Information

  • For media enquiries, please contact:
    Gabrielle Tasse
    A/Senior Communications Advisor
    Public Affairs Branch
    819-953-7734
    or
    For general enquiries, please contact:
    Information Centre, Competition Bureau
    819-997-4282 or Toll free: 1-800-348-5358
    TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-642-3844
    www.competitionbureau.gc.ca