Montreal Fraud Prevention Month launch event

Speech

Remarks by Kata Rados, Assistant Deputy Commissioner
Fraud Prevention Month 2019
February 28, 2019
Montreal, Quebec
(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning.

Thank you Myriam [Chagnon, Coordonnatrice, d’événements et de projets], for that kind introduction. Thank you also to our hosts today, Options consommateurs. And of course, thanks to all of you for joining us today to help us launch Fraud Prevention Month.

This is, in fact, a landmark year, as 2019 marks the 15th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month in Canada. A lot has changed, and yet, so much has stayed the same. The last decade-and-a-half have brought historic digital disruption. And while scammers are using cutting-edge digital tools to cheat Canadians, the schemes themselves look familiar. The scams are the same, but the tools and methods are new. I like to think of the Internet as a powerful tool in the fraud toolbox. Powerful enough that it is expanding the reach of fraudulent crime well beyond the traditionally vulnerable consumer groups of seniors, children and new Canadians.

But before I get into that, let’s first cast a look back to 2004, when the Fraud Prevention Forum launched Canada’s very first Fraud Prevention Month. We’ve accomplished a lot since then. We’ve produced countless videos to give people the tools they need to recognize, reject and report scams. We’ve taken part in dozens of events like this one.
We’ve published our Fraud Facts Report, all kinds of guidance to businesses, and of course, a highlight for me, two editions of the Little Black Book of Scams. We reached over 40 million people through our Fraud Prevention Month campaign last year.

We also continue to prosecute fraudsters. Almost one year ago, for example, our enforcement actions against two telemarketing operations in Montréal led to a number of guilty pleas.  We’ve issued nearly 30 alerts since May 2016, with the aim of helping consumers identify and avoid common scams.

While many scams haven’t changed much over time, the Internet has given scammers a much broader reach than telemarketing, television or print ever could. Not only are scammers reaching more people, they are reaching different kinds of people. Traditionally, scammers have targeted populations we consider vulnerable – children, seniors, new Canadians. But, everyone uses the Internet, so we are all vulnerable.

While scam artists continue to reach their victims by telephone and in person, they have also latched on to online platforms, particularly social media, to target a new demographic: Millennials and Generation Zed. Despite being Internet-savvy, millennials have such a huge presence online that they have become natural targets for fraudsters.

That brings an interesting example to mind. There are fraudsters out there who look to take advantage of people's suffering by marketing health scams to them. The most common health scams — miracle cures, weight loss programs and fake online pharmacies — often appear as sponsored posts on social media or website pop-ups.
Scammers sometimes offer what appear to be legitimate alternative medicines and treatments that quickly and easily treat serious conditions – often endorsed by celebrities or sham testimonials.

I’m reminded of Project False Hope, a past Bureau initiative where we created a webpage with interactive tools to help consumers spot the signs of fraudulent online cancer treatments and cures. And of the more current issue of fake online pharmacies that use the Internet or spam emails to offer drugs and medications at very cheap prices, with or without a doctor's prescription. Under the Competition Act, performance claims for these kinds of products must be based on adequate and proper testing. Representations, or statements made must also not be false or misleading.

So, as this example demonstrates, as we make the shift away from the analogue world, it’s important that we are all vigilant. For tips on recognizing potential fraud, I encourage you to consult the Competition Bureau’s Little Black Book of Scams, available for free on our website.

And now, let me end by congratulating the Fraud Prevention Forum on 15 years of educating consumers and preventing fraud. Indeed, a lot has changed since 2004, but the goal remains unchanged — to help Canadians recognize, reject and report fraud.

Thank you.


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