It’s dinnertime. Your phone rings. The caller congratulates you on having won a dream vacation. But you never entered a contest.
This, say experts, is a prime example of telemarketing fraud, which has become one of the most pervasive forms of white-collar crime in Canada.
The GTA alone has hundreds of fraudulent telemarketing operations conducting a variety of schemes, including offering advance-fee loans, credit card “protection,” stock swaps, prizes and sweepstakes, and investment-grade gemstones.
The scope of the operations range from one individual using disposable cellphones, to “boiler room” offices with dozens of staff.
According to the Competition Bureau, a telltale sign of fraud is when the caller puts pressure to act immediately. Criminals do this because short offer expiry dates reduce the risk of being traced by authorities.
Police also explain that in Ontario, it is illegal for loan brokers to charge a fee before a consumer receives the loan. If a caller offers a loan you haven’t applied for and requests that a fee be paid upfront, warning bells should be going off.
How to spot fraudulent calls
• Be wary if the caller demands an immediate answer
• Ask all marketing, research or charity callers for detailed written information you can check yourself, time to think about the offer, valid references and the means to contact them, and a call-back number. Then check Revenue Canada’s database to ensure it is a legitimate entity.
• If you’re suspicious of any call, hang up immediately.
• If you suspect you’ve been defrauded, call your local police, bank and Phonebusters (1-888-495-8501).
• Canadians are not eligible for out-of-country lotteries. If you’re told you’ve won one, just hang up.