By John Pecman
Fraud annually takes more than $10 billion from the Canadian economy, according to the National Mass Marketing Fraud Strategy Working Group. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has indicated that 60 per cent of Canadians have been targeted, yet the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canada’s central fraud repository, says that nine out of 10 victims do not report their experiences.
March is Fraud Prevention Month, and the focus of this year’s campaign is consumer empowerment.
The Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency under the Industry Canada portfolio, is the chair of the Fraud Prevention Forum. We invite consumers and businesses to join the fight against fraud, as they have an important role to play in stopping it.
Fraud comes in a variety of sizes and forms, such as imitating well-known brands, false representations online or via telemarketing, identity theft, counterfeiting and more. Fraudsters are creative, constantly scheming to concoct new tactics.
Information-gathering is an ongoing challenge in combating fraud. The best way for law enforcement officers to obtain information is from Canadians reporting their experiences to the proper authorities.
There are many respected organizations working towards tracking down fraudsters, including the Competition Bureau, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, other police forces, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and international partners, such as the International Mass Marketing Fraud Working Group. The Better Business Bureau and other consumer groups are also valued partners.
However, we can’t do it alone. Any tip from the public could provide evidence required to find the culprits behind fraudulent activity.
The Competition Bureau takes fraudulent activity and misleading advertising seriously. For example, this past December, following an investigation in partnership with the Centre of Operations Linked to Telemarketing Fraud, charges were laid against five individuals who ran telemarketing operations using questionable tactics promoting business supplies and medical kits to Canadian and American businesses, as well as government grants to American citizens.
Cases such as this demonstrate the importance of receiving complaints from the public, as these are instrumental and often form the basis for launching our investigations.
We understand that it is not always easy for victims to make that call. Embarrassment, shame and guilt are only some of the barriers preventing victims from speaking about their experiences.
Victims should remember that they are not alone, and the next victim could be a neighbour, friend or family member.
Consumers should take time to inform themselves and their families about various types of scams.
Businesses should ensure that employees are educated about fraud, and have fraud-prevention policies in place.
The Canadian Edition of the Little Black Book of Scams, launched by the Competition Bureau last year during Fraud Prevention Month, is a helpful tool containing hints on how to protect against different scams, what to do if you’ve been scammed, how to get help and where to report complaints.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre works closely with governments, police forces, communities and public safety organizations to uncover and diffuse threats of fraud. The centre can be reached at 1-888-495-8501 or www.antifraudcentre.ca.
To report cases of unacceptable business practices such as misleading representations and deceptive marketing, the Competition Bureau can be reached at www.competitionbureau.gc.ca or 1-800-348-5358.
Remember, if an advertisement, promotion or sales pitch seems too good to be true, it probably is, and every call reporting fraud is a step toward justice being served.