Beware of ‘scratch and win’ promotions

The federal government’s Competition Bureau is warning consumers to be careful with direct mail promotions that involve scratch-and-win cards sent directly to Canadian households. Lucky recipients of these cards (they should be called “scratch-and-pay”) who uncover “winning symbols” or a combination of symbols are asked to call a 1-900 number to claim their prize. Of course, any 1-900 call involves a toll, which can end up costing you a lot of money to discover that you’ve won a dubious prize.

Take some simple precautions before you pick up the phone and run up your bill:

  • Remember that all callers to these 1-900 telephone numbers are automatically charged on their next telephone bill.

  • Read the entire card very carefully to determine the nature and value of the prizes and the chances of winning each advertised prize. While the card may have a list of prizes with a list of winning symbols beside it, callers often find that the prizes may not be listed in the same order as the applicable winning symbols.

  • Check the cost of the call as shown on the card and decide if it is worth responding.

  • Determine whether the card offers alternativethods of participation. For example, is there a “no purchase” option allowing recipients to respond by mail?

  • The Competition Bureau examines complaints of misleading advertising. If you think you’ve been misled (who hasn’t?) call them (toll free) at 1-800-348-5358.