Scam Watch

The flyer promised everything: Work from home and make up to $1,000 a week working full-time, or $750 a week for a part-time effort. Background was of no concern, nor was the language you spoke. Best of all, no experience was required. All you had to do was make one phone call to sign up.

And therein lay the trap.

A sharp-eyed CARP member became suspicious when she noticed the ultra-fine print. In letters significantly smaller than the main message it read: “Forty-nine dollars and ninety-five cents per call.” Simply by calling the number listed, she could have had that amount added to her phone bill. Instead, she contacted Phonebusters, Canada Post and Bell Canada.

Phonebusters reported Bell Canada had issued the owner of the telephone number a violation notice, pointing out the flyer must have the fee printed in letters the same size and type as the phone number people were invited to call. The easily recognized symbol ($) must also be used rather than simply spelling out the word “dollars.” Further complaints about the phone number would cause it to be taken out of service.

After speaking several times with Bell Canada Service Product Manager, Nunzio Gavita, thowner of the number abandoned this scheme, having been made aware the police, Bell, and CARP were watching his activities.

People who don’t notice the fine print, and who call such numbers may not have been aware that numbers beginning 976, no matter their area code, will, like 1-900 numbers, result in charges to their phone bills.

Detective Constable Gus Laforge of Phonebusters recommends that people who receive questionable flyers check with their phone companies before calling a 976 number. If, after calling such a number they felt they had been deceived, they should report a complaint to their phone company immediately.

Laforge also suggests members look into CALL BLOCK. This service, available for a one-time fee of $10 per line, prevents calls being made from your phone to 1-900 or 976 numbers.

As for the issue of potentially fraudulent flyers, Canada Post reports there is no legislation allowing them to investigate once a client signs a contract to deliver a number of flyers.

CARP has written to Bell Canada asking that 976 numbers require a preamble allowing callers to hang up before costs are incurred and that callers to 1-900 numbers be allowed more time to evaluate the message before they must hang up or be charged.

Industry Canada has also been asked by CARP for legislation giving Canada Post the right to investigate and refuse obviously fraudulent mail.