Scam artists continue to target British Columbian seniors through deceptive ‘sweepstakes’ opportunities that come through the mail. It’s an age-old trick and unfortunately seniors continue to be victims of this type of scheme.
March is Fraud Prevention Month and the Province is teaming up with Consumer Protection BC to provide tips to help British Columbians avoid becoming victims of these types of fraud.
This is how the scam works: Martha is 82 years old and lives alone. She receives a letter in the mail saying she has won $2.5 million. All she has to do is send $30 in the mail as a ‘processing fee’ and include personal details, such as her telephone number and birth date. Martha takes some money from the bank, pops it into an envelope and sends it off. Not only is Martha out some crucial money from her limited budget, she has also been added to a ‘sucker list’ and receives more and more offers like this one in the mail. Of course, she never sees any winnings.
Just last year, Vancouver Police broke up a lottery mail-out scam that was pulling in thousands of dollars a day from seniors around the globe.
Here are some tips to protect you and your family from deceptive mail-outs and lottery scams:
Do not pay up-front for any prize. A legitimate prize offering will never require you to pay anything.
Be suspicious of free gifts.
Be careful if an offering asks for you to send personal information.
Before responding to a company you have never heard of, contact organizations such as Consumer Protection BC, Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre or your local Better Business Bureau to see if they have received any complaints about the company.
Do not fill out surveys or questionnaires asking questions about gambling, puzzles or sweepstakes.
If you are getting rid of documents that have your personal information on them (e.g., bills and bank statements), shred them.
Do not be fooled by glossy and colourful mail-outs. Scam artists are professionals and know how to make things look real.
Sit down with family members who might be vulnerable and explain how these types of scams work.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
March is Fraud Prevention Month – know your rights!
If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities as a consumer in British Columbia, contact Consumer Protection BC toll free at 1 888 564-9963, or visit: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca