Generally, financial fraud means using dishonesty to trick someone into losing money. It can involve lies, trickery and other dishonest practices.
Financial fraud can take many different forms. Here are some examples:
- identity theft: Stealing personal information (date of birth, social insurance number, bank account number, etc.) and using that information to buy goods and services or borrow money.
- credit card fraud
- "ponzi" schemes: An investment scheme in which money paid in by new investors is used to pay phoney gains to earlier investors.
- fake lotteries: For example, a fake contest offering a cruise as a prize.
- share purchase schemes: The fraud artist tells the potential victim that the value of a company's shares is about to skyrocket and that the potential victim is one of the few people being given access to this information. The fraud artist then gives the victim a chance to buy these shares.
- bogus charities: Requests for donations to charities that don't exist.
- "nigerian Letter" schemes: Requests to use a bank account to get money out of a foreign country.
How do people carry out financial fraud?
People who commit fraud target potential victims in many different ways. They might use regular mail, faxes, emails, the telephone or newspaper advertisements. Sometimes, they go door to door. They might even infiltrate a person's social circle and try to become a friend. In fact, many victims of fraud are introduced to a fraud artist by someone they know.
What if people try to sell me things by phone or fax?
People selling products or services are allowed to call or fax you, except for people selling certain kinds of things, such as pre-arranged funeral services. (Funeral companies are not allow to call potential customers.)
But if you speak to the caller in person over the phone, there are rules the caller must follow. First, at the beginning of the call, the caller must tell you:
- the name of the business or person the caller is working for
- the purpose of the call
- what product or service she is promoting
At some point in the call, the caller must also tell you:
- the price of any product or service being promoted
- any restrictions or conditions that must be met before the product is delivered
Also, there is a general rule that a business promoting a product or service cannot present information that is false or misleading or to mislead a consumer by leaving out important information.
You should also know that you can cut down on the number of calls you get from people selling things by signing up for the National Do Not Call List (1-866-580-3625).
What if I am thinking of buying something over the phone or Internet or by mail?
The law requires the seller to provide you with the following information before you buy anything:
- her name and contact information (phone number and, if there is one, a fax number and email address)
- a detailed description of the product or service
- the total price, including taxes and any extra charges
- the currency you must pay in (Canadian dollars, U.S. dollars, etc.)
- the delivery date or time period in which the seller will deliver the product or perform the service
- the way the product will be shipped and name of the transport company
- the seller's policies on exchanges and returns
This information must be presented in a way that is easy to understand and easy to find.
Unless you are paying by credit card, the seller cannot ask you to pay part or all of the purchase price before sending the product or performing the service.
Note that there are special rules for some kinds of goods and services, such as pre-arranged funeral services, insurance, loans of money, newspaper and magazine subscriptions and trips sold by travel agents.
To learn more about your rights, see the website of Quebec's Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau) or call the bureau at the number in your area. Check your phone book for the number.
What should I know about people selling things door-to-door?
Sellers who show up on your doorstep must follow certain rules, unless they are selling goods worth $25 or less. So students selling $10 chocolate bars for their school do not have to follow these rules!
Door-to-door sellers must have a permit from the Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau). While the seller doesn't have to show you the actual permit, she does have to tell you the number of the permit. You can then call the Office to check that this permit is valid.
If you buy something, the seller must give you a written contract containing certain information, including the seller's contact information, the total price you must pay and the terms of payment.
The law also gives you the right to cancel your purchase within 10 days of receiving your copy of the contract. In some cases, you have up to 1 year to cancel.
You should know that there are special rules for some kinds of contracts, such as insurance contracts, contracts with travel agents and contracts for pre-arranged funeral services.
To learn more, see our article Door-to-Door Sales.
What should I know about people trying to sell me investments?
In Quebec, individuals or firms offering to invest your money in things such as shares in a company or units in an investment fund must be registered with the Autorité des marchés financiers, a government agency. To make sure the individual or firm is registered, search the agency's online registry or call 1-877-525-0337.
Also, anyone calling herself a "financial planner" must have a special diploma from the Institut Québécois de planification financière, plus a special certificate. The certificate can either be from the Autorité des marchés financiers or from an association of professionals - accountants, for example - that has an agreement with the Autorité. To find out whether a person calling herself a "financial planner" is legitimate, check the directory on the website of the Institute or call the Institute at 514-767-4040 or 1-800-640-4050. The Institute's website also has a list of suggested questions to ask anyone offering to act as your financial planner.
Where can I get more information on financial fraud?
Investing and Financial Advisors:
- L'Autorité des marchés financiers (Quebec) - 514 395-0337 or 1-877-525-0337.
- Canadian Securities Administrators
- Sûreté du Québec (Quebec Provincial Police) - 514-598-4141 (Website information for seniors is in French only. Collect calls accepted.)
- Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre - 1-888-495-8501
- Many banks and other financial institutions have pamphlets and websites about fraud. The Canadian Bankers Association website also has a section on this topic.
- Government of Quebec: Protect Your Identity Online (french only).
- Sûreté du Québec, RCMP and other partners: "Internet 101".
- Office de la protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau). For the phone number, see your phone book.
- Canadian Consumer Information Gateway
Where can I turn if I have been a victim of financial fraud?
If your case falls under the responsibility of a police department other than the one you called, your case will be referred to the proper department.
For situations involving investments or financial advisors, you can contact the Autorité des marchés financiers. (514-873-3090 or 1-877-525-0337)
For cases dealing with a product or service you bought, you can contact the Office de protection du consommateur (consumer protection bureau). Check your phone book for the number in your area.
If your personal information has been stolen, contact the police. You can also contact any institutions involved (banks and credit card companies, for example) or government departments that issued the documents (driver's licence, social insurance number, medicare card, passport, etc.) to ask them what steps you should take. It is also a good idea to explain your situation to Canada Post to make sure no one else is receiving your mail.
You might be interested to know that the criminal sentences (punishments) for defrauding a senior can be more harsh than when the victim is not a senior. The judge deciding on a sentence can take into account the fact that the victim was a senior.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.