Competition Bureau Canada

Competition Bureau Canada

March 02, 2009 10:25 ET

Competition Bureau Canada: Hard Economic Times Can Be Boom Times For Scammers

Competition Bureau launches Fraud Prevention Month with warning to Canadian businesses and consumers

OTTAWA, ONTAIRO--(Marketwire - March 2, 2009) - The Government of Canada is warning businesses and consumers to be on the lookout for an increase in fraudulent activity by scammers during the current downturn in the economy.

"Now more than ever, consumers and businesses can ill afford to lose money to scam artists," said Melanie Aitken, Interim Commissioner of Competition."We expect both businesses and consumers to be more vulnerable to scams as they look to minimize expenses. It is important that they recognize the signs of fraudulent activity in the marketplace."

Ms. Aitken made the remarks at the launch of Fraud Prevention Month, an annual education and awareness campaign in Canada and around the world. She was joined by business and consumer groups, all of whom urged Canadian business and consumers to avoid becoming victims of fraud by learning how to recognize it, report it and stop it.

Throughout the month, the Fraud Prevention Forum, a concerned group of private-sector firms, consumer and volunteer groups, government agencies and law enforcement organizations, works to educate Canadians. The Fraud Prevention Forum is chaired by the Competition Bureau.

"Working together with our partners in the Fraud Prevention Forum, to educate consumers and businesses, and to prosecute those determined to cheat Canadians, is essential in the fight against mass marketing fraud," Ms. Aitken added.

"The role of the Better Business Bureau is to promote trust in the marketplace. Fraud undermines that trust, which is why we are so committed to participating in Fraud Prevention Month activities each year," said Doug Simpson, president of the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus.

"As a not for profit association, Option consommateurs has been actively promoting and defending the rights of consumers for the last 25 years," said Anu Bose, the Head of the Ottawa office of Option consommateurs. "Fraud is a grave violation of a person's rights. Consumers need to be even more vigilant in hard times. Fraud Prevention Month is a tool for raising consumer awareness so that men and women, young and old do not fall prey to fraudsters."

In 2008, the Competition Bureau received almost 15,000 mass marketing fraud complaints from Canadians, which is fraud by mail, telephone and Internet. These complaints included everything from fraudulent contests where winners were asked to pay up front to collect their prize, to bogus directory listings, where companies who did not order directories were contacted to verify their mailing information so that a bill could be sent.

Over the next four weeks, Fraud Prevention Forum members will host a number of fraud awareness activities, including regional news conferences and fraud seminars, interactive online quizzes and shredding events.

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



Fraud Prevention Month

BACKGROUNDER

Since 2004, the Fraud Prevention Forum has been organizing Fraud Prevention Month, a month-long education campaign in March to address the issue of fraud and ensure confidence in the marketplace. Interest in the campaign has resulted in a considerable increase in membership in the Forum, from 22 in 2004 to over 100 today. Members include major corporations, national and local police organizations, non-profit business and consumer groups and others.

As chair of the Fraud Prevention Forum, the Competition Bureau works with its partners to raise awareness among consumers and businesses about the dangers of fraud by educating them on how to recognize it, report it and stop it.

In 2008, the Competition Bureau received almost 15,000 complaints about mass marketing fraud, which is fraud by mail, telephone and Internet. These complaints included everything from fraudulent contests where winners were asked to pay up front to collect their prize, to bogus directory listings, where companies who did not order directories are contacted to verify their mailing information so that a bill can be sent.

Bureau experts say that when there is a downturn in the economy, there is often an increase in fraudulent activity. Below are some of the scams that the Bureau is watching closely along with some tips to help avoid being scammed:

Deceptive notice of winning a prize

- Never send money up front to collect a prize.

- Legitimate lottery and sweepstakes administrators never charge fees to deliver a prize.

- You have to play to win! If you've been contacted about a prize for a contest you didn't enter, it's probably too good to be true.

Business directory listings

- Make it a policy not to accept offers over the phone.

- Ask for a copy of the offer in writing.

- Closely examine ads or offers to be listed in a business directory.

- Ask for information about the product and customer references.

Work-at-home opportunities

- Be cautious of job ads that claim "no experience necessary".

- Search for background information about the business.

- Beware of ads that include exaggerated claims about the amount of money to be earned.

In an effort to educate consumers and businesses about these sorts of scams during Fraud Prevention Month, the Bureau has a number of online products available, including an interactive fraud quiz, letters from victims, and prevention tips. For more information, please visit: www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/fraud

Contact Information

  • For media enquiries:
    Competition Bureau
    External Relations and Public Affairs Branch
    Maureen McGrath
    Senior Advisor
    819-953-8982
    or
    For general enquiries:
    Competition Bureau
    Information Centre
    819-997-4282
    Toll free: 1-800-348-5358
    TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-642-3844