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How to avoid getting scammed by fraudsters

(NC) Every year, Canadians lose millions of dollars to scam artists who bombard them with online, mail, door-to-door and telephone scams.

Fraudsters are cunning, heartless fast talkers who show no mercy when it comes to conning people into handing over their hard-earned money. They target people of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and incomes and lure people into paying for fake lotteries, Internet scams, get-rich-quick schemes and miracle health or weight loss programs.

One of the most heartbreaking scams, known as emergency scams, target grandparents and play upon their emotions to rob them of their money. The typical emergency scam involves a grandparent receiving a call from a scammer pretending to be one of his or her grandchildren. Callers go on to say they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. They claim to have been in a car accident, to be having trouble returning from a foreign country or to need bail money. They ask you not to tell anyone and then ask you to wire some money through a money transfer company. Often, victims don't verify the information until after the money is sent.

If someone calls or approaches you for money, think twice before handing over a dime. The Competition Bureau suggests some ways to protect yourself. Cut them out and place them near your phone or computer to protect everyone in your home.

Protect your identity at all times.Only give out personal information when you can absolutely trust the person you are talking to.

Never send money to anyone you don't know or trust.Never send money or pay any fee to claim a prize or lottery winnings and never wire money to someone whose identity you cannot confirm. Never give your credit card or banking information over the phone unless you know the person.

Ask for identification and be assertive. For door-to-door salespeople, demand to see identification and send them away if you're not comfortable.

Beware of text scams or spam e-mail. Never reply to spam e-mail or text messages from people or organizations you have never heard of. Legitimate banks would never ask for account information in an e-mail or text.

Beware of free downloads and requests for passwords. A “free” game, application or trial offer that requires a credit card number can lead to charges you didn't expect. Downloading suspicious content can harm your computer and compromise your identity. Choose uncommon passwords and change them regularly.

March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada. To learn more about fraud, what you can do to protect yourself and how you can report a scam, go to or call 1-888-495-8501, visit the bureau at or call 1-800-348-5358.

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