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Mass Market

Mass-marketing fraud is a scam where telephones, the Internet, mass mailings, television, radio, and personal contact are used to contact, solicit, and obtain money, funds, or other items of value from multiple victims in one or more jurisdictions. The frauds where victims part with their money by promising cash, prizes, and services and high returns on investment are part of mass market fraud. 


You should be suspicious if you are:

  • Asked for personal financial details like bank account information or credit card numbers over the phone or by e-mail.
  • Pressured to buy something or give information without time to think it through;
  • Specifically asked to pay by cash, check, money order, or commercial wire service transfer (which are harder for law enforcement to detect);
  • Told you’ve won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes you never entered;
  • Asked to help transfer funds out of a foreign country for a share of the money; or
  • Given a check or money order for more than the cost of an item you are selling (criminals ask you to wire them the difference, but the bank later tells you the check or money order is counterfeit).

Types of Mass-marketing Scams:

  1. Grandparent Scams - Pretending to be your grandchild or other family member and claims to be in trouble and asks for help. The scammer may try to convince you that your family member was in a car accident or had been arrested. You may be asked to wire money right away, without telling anyone.

  2. Online Retail Scams - Induce victims to send money for the promised items, but then deliver nothing or only an item far less valuable than what was promised. May also send a fake payments using PayPal or e-transfers.
  3. Employment Scams - Typically require the individuals to pay hundreds of dollars (or more), but fail to deliver the materials or information that would be needed to make the work-at-home opportunity a potentially viable business; send fraudulent cheques and have ‘employee’ cash them in either their own bank account or an account the ‘employee’ sets up for the company then has the employee transfer money to other accounts.
  4. Charity Scams - Solicit donations in the name of non-existent or fraudulent charities. Please remember: the Edmonton Police Service, the Edmonton Police Commission, the Edmonton Police Foundation and the Edmonton Police Association will never call and ask for donations. These phone calls are a scam. We will also never email a traffic infraction. That is also a scam!
  5. Bank Investigator Scam - Person is contacted by fraudsters claiming to be from their financial institution, law enforcement or one of their online merchants. Suspects claim that there have been suspicious charges on the victim's credit card or online account. They then state they need your credit card information to cancel the transaction or that they want you to help them find the suspect but not to tell the police you're helping with an investigation. This "investigation" can include the suspect telling you that they will use your funds to catch the suspect but they'll give your money back to your accounts after. Some suspects ask for more personal information, which can then lead to identity theft later on. 
  6. Loan Scam - Contact individuals and offer to help them lower their loan interest rates, but charge fees without effecting actual reductions in the individual’s interest rates.
  7. Inheritance Scam - Contact prospective victims representing that the people contacted are in a position to receive a substantial inheritance from a family member or from an individual who has died without heirs. The victim is then subjected to a series of demands for advance payment of various nonexistent fees before the inheritance can be transferred.
  8. Foreign Lottery/Prize/Sweepstakes Scams - Falsely represent that the victim just won a substantial lottery prize or other sweepstakes or prize contest, but must pay what proves to be a growing number of nonexistent "fees" or "taxes" before he or she can receive the prize. Operate from a growing number of countries, such as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and Spain.
  9. Online Sales/Counterfeit Cashier’s Cheque/Overpayment Scam - Operate by contacting people who use Websites to advertise large items they are selling, such as cars. The people who contact the prospective seller represent that they want to buy the item, but then send the seller a check for more than the purchase price. The fraudulent “buyer” instructs the seller to use a money-transfer business to wire the funds in excess of the purchase price to the “buyer.” Invariably, after depositing the check into his account, the seller soon finds that the check is counterfeit. The seller not only loses the funds wired to the “buyer,” but may also incur liability as a result of depositing the counterfeit check.
  10. Romance Scams - Send out mass-emails in which the sender pretends to be a man or woman interested in a romantic relationship. Victims who respond to such emails may be subjected to a lengthy stream of emails or even phone calls professing love and affection. Eventually, the victims may be persuaded to send substantial amounts of money to their “true loves,” who lie about needing money to travel or to meet other unexpected expenses. In some cases, victims are even talked into performing tasks that directly further the scheme, such as receiving and redistributing counterfeit checks to be sent to other victims or receiving funds from other victims.
  11. Phishing - The use of emails and websites that falsely purport to be associated with legitimate banks, financial institutions, or companies, but that manipulate Internet users into disclosing personal and financial data.
  12. Vishing - The telephone equivalent of phishing. Fraudsters often call prospective victims, pretending to be officials with the victim’s bank and seek to trick the person into disclosing banking details during the call.
  13. Pump-and-Dump - Typically disseminate false and fraudulent information in an effort to cause dramatic price increases in thinly-traded stocks or stocks of shell companies (the “pump”), then immediately sell-off their stock holdings (the "dump") to realize substantial profits before the stock price falls back to its usual low level. Stock buyers who are unaware of the false information become victims of the scheme once the price falls.
  14. Short-Selling(“Scalping”) Scams - Disseminate false or fraudulent information in an effort to cause price decreases in a particular company’s stock in order benefit from short selling a stock. When a party short sells a stock and covers the trade by buying back the stock at a lower price, the party makes a profit on the difference between the higher price at which it was sold and the lower price at which it was bought back.    

How Do I Protect Myself?

To reduce the risk of becoming a victim of Mass-Marketing Fraud, there are some basic steps you can take.

  • Remove your name from solicitation lists.
  • Shred suspicious mail and do not respond to junk mail or emails from strangers.
  • Do not participate in or respond to claims that you have won a foreign lottery, particularly any lottery or sweepstakes that you do not remember entering.
  • Get all offers in writing and independently verify credentials.
  • Don’t deposit checks sent by companies that claim the check is for fees or taxes on lottery winnings or an inheritance from a long-lost relative. Before the bank discovers the check is counterfeit, the fraudster will request that you return a portion of the money via wire transfer.

What Can I Do If I Have Become A Victim of Mass-Marketing Fraud?

Report the Fraud to:

  • Local Law Enforcement – Contact your local law enforcement office to file a police report. For the Edmonton Police Service, please call 780-423-4567.
  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – 1-888-495-8501 or http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca
  • If you have been the victim of Mass Market Fraud and you require support, please contact Crime and Trauma-Informed Support Services at 780-421-2217 or via email.