Online Lottery Scams Target Seniors

According to the RCMP, several Calgary residents tricked 24 elderly or disabled Americans out of about $3 million over a three-year period by telling them they had won a lottery. This lottery scam targeted U.S. seniors.

Between 2005 and 2008, the victims were contacted by letter or phone and told they had won a lottery or sweepstakes but were required to pay taxes, administration fees or lawyers’ fees before they could collect winnings, which didn’t exist.

One person sent in between $500,000 and $1 million, with the scam collecting about $3 million in total. Some people lost their life savings, and have been ostracized by family or have been forced to remortgage their homes. Others in their 70s had to return to work.

Investigators have arrested four people from Calgary, one from Burnaby, B.C., and one from Toronto. Canada-wide arrest warrants are outstanding for three other suspects who police believe are in the Calgary area.

Grandson Scam

Grandson Scam is the name this time around. The RCMP have shut down a ‘grandson scam’ in west-end Montreal, which operated out of money transfer outlets

RCMP officers yesterday raided 16 Western Union and MoneyGram outlets that were allegedly involved in an international telemarketing scam that touched hundreds of seniors in Canada and the United States.

The fraudster poses as the grandson of the victim and pretends to be in financial trouble in a foreign country. The caller then asks the “grandparent” to send a money transfer, promising to pay the money back upon returning home. Victims were allegedly bilked out of a total of $3.5 million.

1,000 people filed complaints with the RCMP and about 80 per cent had given money as requested. The RCMP warns people against transfering money without knowing for sure who it is going to.

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Scams in Canada

The monthly newsletter from the Canadian Banking Association is out and is well worth reading.  Unfortunately it does not appear on line so your only way of seeing it is to subscribe to the e-mail version.

The topic of Fraud Prevention Tip – February 2009 is scams.  You may wish to subscribe to see the full content but here we will show you some of the highlights.

According to statistics compiled by PhoneBusters, in 2008 there were more than 17,000 victims of fraudulent scams in Canada, which added up to a total dollar loss of over $36 million.  And as these numbers are based solely on reported cases, there are potentially countless more that have gone unreported.

With so many scams you might feel overwhelmed but the good news is there are many resources available for consumers to help them protect themselves.  The newsletter gives the following:

  • PhoneBusters is a Canadian anti-fraud call centre managed by the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP and the Competition Bureau Canada. Its website provides an extensive list of fraudulent scams to watch out for, channels for reporting suspected fraud cases, and links to local fraud prevention groups across the country.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police website provides practical information to help Canadians protect their personal information and ensure their identity and finances are not compromised.
  • The Competition Bureau of Canada and the Fraud Prevention Forum work to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by educating them on how to “recognize it, report it and stop it”.
  • The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada offers useful information to help Canadians protect their private information and learn about their privacy rights.

The PhoneBusters website is excellent and has a particularly good list of current scams, which you can explore via the following links:

Debit and Credit Card Providers

The newsletter also gives some useful links to credit card companies and the Interac Association, which runs the debit card system since frauds may often involve these. Here are the Visa, MasterCard and Interac fraud prevention web pages for both card holders and merchants.




Other Resources

Here are some other resources on scams in Canada you may find helpful.

Let us hope that all the above remains only a somewhat academic source of information for you and that you are never taken in by one of these scams.  Some of these scams are very difficult to spot and can destroy your life so it is important to be ever vigilant.

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