2014 marks the 10th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month
Fraud is a crime that threatens every Canadian, regardless of their education, income or age. It can come in many forms, including deceptive marketing, counterfeiting, identity theft and email messages deviously designed to appear as though they are from well-known brands.
The Competition Bureau plays a part in preventing and combating fraud through its mandate to promote truth in advertising and protect consumers from deceptive marketing practices.
As part of this role, in 2004, the Competition Bureau spearheaded the first Fraud Prevention Month campaign, in an effort to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by raising awareness about how to: Recognize it. Report it. Stop it. This first-of-its-kind campaign brought together partners from government, the public and private sector and included international partners in the United States and the United Kingdom. Together, these partners formed what is known as the Fraud Prevention Forum.
When the forum was first launched in conjunction with the campaign in 2004, it had 22 members. Now, 10 years later, it has grown to include 125 law enforcement agencies, government organizations, private firms, and consumer and volunteer groups.
At the time of the launch in 2004, online fraud was a relatively new problem. Today, with the extraordinary growth of social media and the increasing use of mobile payment methods, criminals are devising increasingly sophisticated ways to defraud Canadians of their money and personal information.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that almost 95 per cent of fraud-related crimes go unreported. Understandably, this makes the task of evidence-gathering a much greater challenge for enforcement agencies, like the bureau. Reports of fraud are vital to our efforts to bring perpetrators to justice and to warn the public about fraud-related threats.
On the 10th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month, we want to remind Canadians that recognizing it, reporting it and stopping it remains as important today as it was in 2004.
Recognizing scams in their many disguises is the first step for Canadians to defend themselves and their families from fraudsters. Consumers and businesses should be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails or text messages from unknown sources, unannounced visits, free trial offers that require a credit card number, requests for personal information by email and requests for the payment of a fee in order to deliver a prize or lottery winnings.
The next step for anyone who becomes aware of fraudulent activity is to report their experiences to the proper authorities.
Fraudulent or suspicious activity can be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, through its website at www.antifraudcentre.ca, or by telephone at 1-888-495-8501. To report instances of misleading or deceptive marketing practices, reach the Competition Bureau at
www.competitionbureau.gc.ca, or by telephone at 1-800-348-5358. If you are a victim of fraud, let your local police force know.
The Canadian Edition of The Little Black Book of Scams, launched by the bureau during the 2011 Fraud Prevention Month, also provides useful information for consumers on how to protect against different scams, what to do if you've been scammed, how to get help and where to report complaints. It can also be found on the bureau's website.
Consumer awareness and reporting are perhaps our greatest weapons in the fight against fraud. I encourage all Canadians to stay vigilant, use the tools available to stay informed about potential scams, and to report their experience, if they've been the target of fraudsters.
What should fraud victims do?
• Write down when you noticed the fraud and the actions you took, including names of people you spoke to and dates of communications.
• File a report with your local police.
• Contact your financial institutions and any other accounts (e.g., phone company or cable provider) that were tampered with, or are at risk of being tampered with.
• Advise Canada’s two credit rating agencies, TransUnion and Equifax.
• IContact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a national anti-fraud call centre, at 1-888-495-8501 or
• A good rule of thumb when you’re banking online: always look for the “lock” icon and an https:// connection to be sure you have a safe connection.
Source: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
Cybersquatters trade on brand names, typists' missteps
It's an easy mistake to make: hitting the wrong computer key and slightly misspelling a domain name, you end up on a website that looks virtually the same as the one you intended to visit. This is no accident; it's a practice called "typo domain cybersquatting," and it's illegal in the United States, but not in Canada.
Typo domain cybersquatters register domains that are similar to popular domains, usually those that do large volumes of online business and generate significant revenue. Cybersquatters catch a small, but profitable, percentage of traffic from people who mistype the site's actual address.
When a visitor keys in the cybersquatter's domain, they often arrive on a keyword related "domain parking page" that contains revenue generating "pay-per-click" advertisements. This scheme is now shifting towards redirecting the visitor through even more profitable affiliate links to the well-known domain.
Peter Koning, president of TypoAssassin.com, a Canadian company that provides typo domain cybersquatting monitoring and detection services, says that cybersquatters can reportedly earn more than $1 million a year from other organizations' names and brand value.
"It's more than just an annoyance for the victims," says Mr. Koning. "They end up paying commissions every month to someone who is simply taking advantage of their good name and a mistyped website address."
Industry analysts estimate that 15 per cent of all web traffic is "type-in traffic," he says, meaning that users type in the domain name, and that 7 per cent of a website's traffic can end up in such a typo domain.
"When it comes to some of the Internet's top websites, the numbers get pretty big," explains Mr. Koning. "It has been estimated that typo domains matching the top 100,000 websites collectively receive at least 68.2 million daily visitors."
He says while typo domain cybersquatters operate a wide range of money-making schemes, the most costly tends to be the "affiliate brand robber," where cybersquatters claim commissions they are not entitled to, simply by redirecting customers to the genuine site that they would have landed on if they had not mistyped the address. Companies pay the commission because they often don't have the time or technology to check that every claim they get is from a legitimate affiliate.
Removing cybersquatters and gaining possession of domains that are used fraudulently by them can be a long and costly process, adds Mr. Koning.
"But shutting down the domains is not the real issue," he adds. "What's important is to stop commission payments to people who should not be getting them, and the best way to do that is by having systems in place to identify cybersquatters."
|BY THE NUMBERS|
$11 million Loss attributed by the CAFC to identity fraud in 2013
50-59 Age range of Canadians most targeted by mass marketing fraudsters based on complaints to the CAFC
1 Toronto’s rank as the principal base of Canadian-based mass marketing fraud operations
132 Suspected fraudster addresses from different countries reported by Canadians in 2013
37% Share of total suspected fraudster addresses in Canada
Source: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Canadian Securities Administrators
Securities regulators from each province and territory have teamed up to form the Canadian Securities Administrators, or CSA for short. The CSA is primarily responsible for developing a harmonized approach to securities regulation across the country.