Competition Bureau Canada

Competition Bureau Canada

March 15, 2011 10:16 ET

Consumer Advisory: Advertising on Social Networking Sites

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 15, 2011) - Today is World Consumer Rights Day. On this occasion, and as part of Fraud Prevention Month, Deputy Commissioner of Competition Lisa Campbell will be speaking at a conference on "Consumers in the Digital Era", hosted by the Union des consommateurs in Montreal.

Ms. Campbell will discuss how, while the Internet empowers Canadians, they should remain vigilant in watching for online consumer traps, such as deceptive advertising on social networking sites. More than 16 million Canadians are active users of social networks, a fact that marketers are keenly aware of as they target this lucrative consumer base. Social networking sites provide advertisers a low-cost method to promote products and services, targeting their advertisements to specific consumers based on the demographic data found on the users' profiles.

While the majority of advertisements are placed by legitimate companies with bona fide products, fraudsters have also caught on to the idea of using social networking sites for the deceptive advertising of fraudulent products and services.

Exaggerated claims, vague details, and deceptive testimonials are misleading tactics often used in questionable advertisements on social networks and pages accessed through links from social networks. The concern is that users may accept such information "at face value" without considering its validity.

Here are some tips to help avoid fraud and better protect yourself online:

  • Advertisements on Social Networks
    An advertisement running on a social networking site is not necessarily credible or reliable. Fraudsters may try to mislead consumers with catchy headlines and graphics to entice you to their Web site, where you may be cheated out of time and money.
  • Be wary before you click
    Sponsored links, also known as paid links, may not always be what they seem. For example, a "free" trial offer should not require you to provide a credit card number.
  • Testimonials
    A testimonial is a common form of marketing that can be misleading or deceptive. It can appear quite believable by using so-called "satisfied customers", "celebrities", or "experts". Web sites that use genuine testimonials should be able to provide details of the consumers quoted, if requested.
  • Beware if contacted out of the blue
    Beware of emails or text messages asking you to provide personal details, banking or financial information. Trustworthy businesses will rarely solicit such information through these channels. 

To report a scam, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501. For more tips, visit the Competition Bureau Web site at www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/fraud.

FRAUD: Recognize It. Report It. Stop It.

The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.

Enquiries/Complaints

Contact Information

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