Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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Attorney General Warns Consumers of Canadian Telemarketing Scam

For the past decade, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Canadian law enforcement have partnered against cross-border fraud. A 2008 report highlights the Toronto Strategic Partnership whose joint initiatives recovered $380 million for 2 million U.S. and Canadian victims. Proportionately the restitution amount per person is minimal, but the results are extraordinary. 

The FTC brough 19 cases. The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) had 15 cases with 191,000 victims whose losses totaled $58 million.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) utilized 100 officers from four different agencies, dedicating a year on routing out "boiler-room" scams with a presence in Ontario.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have contributed full-time staff to the Partnership's successes.

The details of these costly schemes vary, but tend to revolve around the following scenario: Consumers are contacted by someone posing as a Canadian lottery official or a lawyer from a Canadian law firm. The victims are informed they have won a substantial amount of money, either from the lottery or an estate settlement. The caller then instructs the victims to send them a large sum of money for tax purposes, to secure their winnings or even for "processing fees." Once this money is secured, the caller guarantees a check will be sent right away. Naturally, there is no prize money, and the victims soon realize this was an unscrupulous scheme to con them out of hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.

The schemes are not only becoming more elaborate and sophisticated, but the Canadian locale makes it increasingly difficult to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. All these factors combine to make it almost impossible for victims to recover their money.

As a consumer, you need to be able to recognize fraud for what it is so that you don't fall prey to unscrupulous con artists. I want the people of Pennsylvania to understand this type of solicitation is illegal and must be reported immediately.

Here are a few simple ways to protect yourself:

  • Never give out bank account, credit card or social security numbers to "verify eligibility," especially if you did not initiate the call.
  • Never send money to "ensure" your prize. Realize that up-front fees are illegal.
  • Ask to have all the information in writing. If the contest is real, the solicitor will have no problem sending the information to you before you act upon the offer.
  • If you have caller I.D. on your phone, be suspicious of unusual calling prefixes or international callers.
  • If you are still not sure, call a local bank, financial advisor or lawyer to double check.
  • Use common sense and trust your judgment.

Telemarketing fraud continues to be a problem in the U.S., and the best way to fight it is by reporting cases immediately, so officials, such as representatives of my Bureau of Consumer Protection have a better chance of catching scam artists red-handed.