The Center For Debt Management
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Border-Line Scams Are The Real Thing

Thousands of Americans are losing money every day to scam artists operating beyond the boundaries of the United States. In many cases, these international crooks are sitting across the border in Canada — just far enough away from U.S. laws and jurisdiction to reduce the chances that American victims will ever recover their money.

Through telemarketing and print ads, cross-border scam artists offer advance-fee loans, lucrative sounding investment opportunities, and bogus prize promotions. Foreign lottery ticket resales also lure Americans to buy phony "low-risk" chances in supposed high-stakes lotteries. Victims of these scams not only lose their money, but also risk violating federal law, which generally prohibits playing lotteries by mail or phone.

Cross-border scams seem to be a growth industry. According to the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC), a project of the National Consumer League, British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario now rank 8th, 9th, and 11th among states and provinces as a geographic source of fraudulent telemarketing activity. Indeed, police in Montreal, Quebec, recently identified more than 200 Canada-based companies that target U.S. residents exclusively. U.S. law enforcement agents say that con artists may be setting up shop in neighboring countries to avoid prosecution under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which has been in effect since Dec. 31, 1995. The law sets operating standards for legitimate telemarketers, spells out stiff penalties for fraudulent ones, and for the first time, gives state law enforcement agents the power to prosecute across state lines.

Although the Federal Trade Commission and state governments have joined forces to present a united front in the fight against telephone fraud by sharing information and resources, consumers still are in the best position to spot — and stop — these kinds of scams. When it comes to identifying cross-border fraud, that can be daunting. The reasons: con artists based in Canada often give a "mail drop" address in a U.S. city. In addition, Canada and most Caribbean island nations use telephone area codes that are integrated with the U.S. phone system and accessible by direct dialing, without long, cumbersome, and obvious foreign "country-codes."

Here's how you can stop telephone fraud, whether it's cross-border or cross-town:

  • Don't fall for a promise. Telephone solicitations that require an up-front fee for advance-fee loans, unidentified investment opportunities or prize promotions are against U.S. law.
  • Ignore offers to buy tickets in a foreign-based lottery, no matter how tempting they are. Except for legitimate state lotteries, it is a violation of U.S. law to purchase lottery tickets by phone or mail.
  • Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Don't tell them to anyone who asks during an unsolicited sales pitch.
  • If you don't recognize a telephone area code, check it out in your telephone directory. Keep this list of Canadian and Caribbean area codes near your telephone book for reference.
Canada
604
403
306
204
807
706
906
416
613
819
418
514
506
709
902
British Columbia
Alberta
Saskatchewan
Manitoba
Ontario
Ontario
Ontario
Toronto
Ottawa
Quebec
Quebec
Montreal
New Brunswick
Newfoundland
Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island
Caribbean
809
Bermuda, Puerto Rico,Virgin Islands, and other Caribbean islands

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