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The Little Black Book of Scams
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Every year, Canadians lose millions of dollars to the activities of scammers who bombard us with online, mail, door to door and telephone scams.

During a visit to the passport office in Cherryhill Village Mall last fall, we stopped by a kiosk that the RCMP had with information about the fraudsters and their devious tactics to defraud unsuspecting victims. It is a sad statement about our society that these crimes are common place and many of us are “tempted” by these scams on a daily basis. What makes it even worse is that these criminals more often target seniors.

The RCMP Officers working the information kiosk had a wealth of information and advise on how we need to protect ourselves from the variety of devious tactics to defraud unsuspecting victims, such as imitating well known brands online and using deceptive claims to entice consumers through telemarketing, emails or social media.

At the information kiosk, the newly revised booklet, The Little Black Book of Scams was made available. This booklet aims to increase your awareness of the many different kinds of fraud that target Canadians. It provides tips on how to protect yourself and debunks common myths that might allow fraudsters to gain your trust.

This publication is available online at by clicking HERE or to obtain a copy of this publication, or to receive it in an alternate format (Braille, large print, etc.), please click HERE or contact: Information Centre – Competition Bureau 50 Victoria Street, Gatineau, QC K1A 0C9 Tel.: 819-997-4282 Toll free: 1-800-348-5358

While the booklet is superb and we certainly urge you to download or order a copy, we are providing you with some additional information and 12 videos to help protect yourself against these crooks.

Golden rules

Remember these golden rules to help you beat the scammers.
  • Always get independent advice if an offer involves money, personal information, time or commitment.
  • There are no guaranteed get rich quick schemes—sometimes the only people who make money are the scammers.
  • Do not agree to offers or deals right away. If you think you have spotted a great opportunity, insist on time to get independent advice before making a decision.
  • Do not hand over money or personal information, or sign anything until you have done your homework and checked the credentials of the company that you are dealing with.
  • Do not rely on glowing testimonials: find solid evidence of a company's success.
  • Log directly on to a website that you are interested in rather than clicking on links provided in an email.
  • Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust.
  • If you spot a scam or have been scammed, get help. Contact the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre, the Competition Bureau or your local police for assistance.

Scammers are imaginative and manipulative. They know how to push your buttons to produce the response they want. The following pages include 12 Videos to help you understand how these criminals will try to manipulate you. The topics of the 12 are:
  1. Lotteries, sweepstakes and contests
  2. Pyramid schemes
  3. Money transfer requests
  4. Internet scams
  5. Mobile phone scams
  6. Health and medical scams
  7. Emergency scams
  8. Dating and romance scams
  9. Charity scams
  10. Job and employment scams
  11. Small business scams
  12. Service scams

Lotteries, sweepstakes and contests

Many Canadians are lured by the excitement of a surprise win and find themselves sending huge amounts of money to claim fake prizes.

Pyramid schemes

Pyramid schemes promise a large financial return for a relatively small cost. Pyramid schemes are illegal and very risky—and can cost you a lot of money.

Money transfer requests

Money transfer scams are on the rise. Be very careful when someone offers you money to help transfer their funds. Once you send money to someone, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.

Internet scams

A lot of Internet scams take place without the victim even noticing. You can greatly reduce the chances of being scammed on the Internet if you follow some simple precautions.

Mobile phone scams

Mobile phone scams can be difficult to recognize. Be wary of somebody who talks as if they know you or of redialling a missed call from an unknown number—there may be hidden charges.

Health and medical scams

Medical scams prey on human suffering. They offer solutions where none exist or promise to simplify complex health treatments.

Emergency scams

Emergency scams target grandparents and play upon their emotions to rob them of their money.

Dating and romance scams

Despite the many legitimate dating websites operating in Canada, there are many dating and romance scams as well. Dating and romance scams try to lower your defences by appealing to your romantic and compassionate side.

Charity scams

Charity scams take advantage of people's generosity and kindness by asking for donations to a fake charity or by impersonating a real charity.

Job and employment scams

Job and employment scams target people looking for a job. They often promise a lot of income—sometimes they even guarantee it—for little or no effort.

Small bunisess scams

Scams that target small businesses can come in a variety of forms—from bills for advertising or directory listings that were never ordered to dubious office supply offers.

Service scams

Many Canadians are being targeted by individuals claiming to offer reduced rates or deals for various services.

Handy hints to protect yourself

Protect your identity

  • Only give out your personal details and information where it is absolutely necessary and when you trust the person you are speaking to or dealing with.
  • Destroy personal information: don't just throw it out. You should cut up or shred old bills, statements or cards—for example, credit cards and ATM cards.
  • Treat your personal details like you would treat money: don't leave them lying around for others to take.

    Money matters

    • Never send money to anyone that you don't know and trust.
    • Do not send any money or pay any fee to claim a prize or lottery winnings.
    • "Jobs" asking you to simply use your own bank account to transfer money for somebody could be a front for money laundering activity. Money laundering is a serious criminal offence.
    • Avoid transferring or wiring any refunds or overpayments back to anyone you do not know.

    The face to face approach

  • If someone comes to your door, ask to see some identification. You do not have to let them in, and they must leave if you ask them to.
  • Before you decide to pay any money, if you are interested in what a door to door salesperson has to offer, take the time to find out about their business and their offer.
  • Contact the Competition Bureau, provincial and territorial consumer affairs offices or the Better Business Bureau of your province or territory if you are unsure about a seller that comes to your door. See "Getting Help and Reporting a Scam" for contact information.

    Telephone business

    • If you receive a phone call from someone you do not know, always ask for the name of the person you are speaking to and who they represent. Verify this information by calling the company yourself.
    • Do not give out your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
    • It is best not to respond to text messages or missed calls that come from numbers you do not recognize. Be especially wary of phone numbers beginning with 1 900. These may be charged at a higher rate than other numbers and can be very expensive.

    Email offers

    • Never reply to a spam email, even to unsubscribe—often, this just serves to "verify" your address to scammers. The best course of action is to delete any suspicious emails without opening them.
    • Turn off the "viewing pane" as just viewing the email may send a verification notice to the sender that yours is a valid email address.
    • Legitimate banks and financial institutions will never ask you for your account details in an email or ask you to click on a link in an email to access your account.
    • Never call a telephone number or trust other contact details that you see in a spam email.

    Internet business

    • Install software that protects your computer from viruses and unwanted programs and make sure it is kept current. If you are unsure, seek the help of a computer professional.
    • If you want to access a website, use a bookmarked link to the website or type the address of the website into the browser yourself. Never follow a link in an email.
    • Check website addresses carefully. Scammers often set up fake websites with addresses very similar to legitimate websites.
    • Beware of websites offering "free" downloads (such as music, adult content, games and movies). Downloading these products may install harmful programs onto your computer without you knowing.
    • Avoid clicking on pop up ads—this could lead to harmful programs being installed on your computer.
    • Never enter your personal, credit card or online account information on a website that you are not sure is genuine.
    • Never send your personal, credit card or online banking details through an email.
    • Avoid using public computers (at libraries or Internet cafes) to do your Internet banking or online shopping.
    • When using public computers, clear the history and cache of the computer when you finish your session.
    • Be careful when using software on your computer that auto completes online forms. This can give Internet scammers easy access to your personal and credit card details.
    • Choose passwords that would be difficult for anyone else to guess—for example, passwords that include letters and numbers. You should also regularly change passwords.
    • When buying anything online, print out copies of all transactions and only pay via a secure site. If using an Internet auction site, note the ID numbers involved and read all the security advice on the site first.

    Scams and you: What to do if you get scammed!

    Canadian authorities may not always be able to take action against scams, even if it seems like a scammer might have broken the law.

    Reducing the damage

    Although it may be hard to recover any money that you have lost to a scam, there are steps you can take to reduce the damage and avoid becoming a target for a follow up scam. The more quickly you act, the greater your chance of reducing your losses.

    Report a scam. By reporting the scam to authorities, they may be able to warn other people about the scam and minimize the chances of the scam spreading further. You should also warn your friends and family of any scams that you come across. Details on how to report a scam are provided at the end of this publication.

    If you have been tricked into signing a contract or buying a product or service

    Contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office and consider getting independent advice to examine your options: there may be a cooling off period or you may be able to negotiate a refund.

    If you think someone has gained access to your online account, telephone banking account or credit card details

    Call your financial institution immediately so they can suspend your account and limit the amount of money you lose. Credit card companies may also be able to perform a "charge back" (reverse the transaction) if they believe that your credit card was billed fraudulently.

    Do not use contact details that appear in emails or on websites that you are suspicious of—they will probably be fake and lead you to a scammer. You can find legitimate contact details in the phone book, an account statement or on the back of your ATM card.

    If the scam relates to your health

    Stop taking any pills or substances that you are not sure about. See a doctor or other qualified medical professional as soon as you can. Be sure to tell them about the treatment that the scammer sold (take along any substances, including their packaging). Also tell them if you have stopped any treatment that you were taking before the scam.

    If you have sent money to someone that you think may be a scammer

    If you sent your credit card details, follow the instructions in the section opposite.

    If you sent money through an electronic funds transfer (over the Internet), contact your financial institution immediately. If they have not already processed the transfer, they may be able to cancel it.

    If you sent a cheque, contact your financial institution immediately. If the scammer hasn't already cashed your cheque, they may be able to cancel it.

    If you sent money through a wire service (such as Western Union or Money Gram), contact the wire service immediately. If you are very quick, they may be able to stop the transfer.

    If you have been tricked by a door to door seller

    You may be protected by laws that provide you with a "cooling off" period, during which you can cancel an agreement or contract that you signed. Contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for advice about door to door sales laws.

    If you have been scammed using your computer

    If you were using your computer when you got scammed, it is possible that a virus or other malicious software is still on your computer. Run a full system check using reliable security software.

    If you do not have security software (such as virus scanners and a firewall) installed on your computer, a computer professional can help you choose what you need.

    Scammers may have also gained access to your online passwords. Change these using a secure computer.

    If the scam involves your mobile phone

    Call your telephone provider and let them know what has happened.

    Getting help and reporting a scam

    The best agency to contact depends on where you live and what type of scam is involved.

    If you think you have spotted a scam or have been targeted by a scam, there are a number of government and law enforcement agencies in Canada that you can contact for advice or to make a report. This may help you and prevent others from being ripped off by scam operators.

    Canadian Anti–Fraud Centre
    1 888 495 8501

    The Competition Bureau's Information Centre
    1 800 348 5358

    Local scams

    Contact your local consumer affairs office

    Your local consumer affairs office is best placed to investigate scams that appear to come from within your own province or territory. A list of provincial and territorial consumer affairs offices can be found in the Canadian Consumer Handbook on the Office of Consumer Affairs website.

    Financial and investment scams

    Contact Canadian Securities Administrators

    Financial scams involve sales offers or promotions about financial products and services such as superannuation, managed funds, financial advice, insurance, credit or deposit accounts.

    Investment scams involve share buying, foreign currencies trading, offshore investments, Ponzi schemes or prime bank investment schemes.

    You can report financial and investment scams to the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) or to your local securities regulator.


    Reporting banking and credit card scams

    Contact your bank or financial institution

    As well as reporting these scams to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre, you should alert your bank or financial institution about any suspicious correspondence that you receive about your account. They can advise you on what to do next.

    Make sure that the telephone number you use is from the phone book, your account statement or the back of your credit or ATM card.

    Reporting spam emails and SMS

    Many scams arrive by email and SMS. Visit for information on Canada's anti spam legislation.

    Fraudulent (or "phishing") emails requesting personal details can also be reported to the bank, financial institution or other organization concerned (be sure to use a phone number or email address that did not appear in the email to make your report).

    Reporting fraud, theft and other crimes

    Contact the police
    Many scams that may breach consumer protection laws (those enforced by the Competition Bureau, other government and law enforcement agencies) may also breach the fraud provisions of the Criminal Code.

    If you are the victim of fraud—you have suffered a loss because of someone's dishonesty or deception—you should consider contacting your local police (particularly if the amount involved is significant).

    You should definitively contact the police if you have had your property stolen or have been threatened or assaulted by a scammer.

    You may also contact one of the following organizations:

    Canadian Council of Better Business Bureau

    Canada Revenue Agency—Charities Directorate
    1 800 267 2384

    Your local police, credit card companies, banks, and provincial records offices.