Reader’s Digest Scam Targeting Canadian Seniors

The sad truth is seniors are a popular target for fraudsters, and now an ongoing scam involving a fake Readers’ Digest lottery is cheating innocent seniors out of their money. The victims are being told that they have won a cash prize and are strung along by con artists who keep requiring more and more funds before the prize money can be released.

How The Scam Works
According to a news release from the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least two seniors have been cheated in this way, and the New Westminster Police Department in BC has reported a similar case. In this particular scam, the victims receive a letter in the mail informing them that they have won a cash prize from Readers’ Digest. Once the victim is on the hook, they’re told they have to pay a ‘Duty Tax’ to get at their prize money.

The Readers Digest Lottery Scam is a variation on one of the most popular scams, known as the “sweepstakes scam.” In this case, the fraudsters use the Readers’ Digest and Publishers Clearing House brand names to engender trust in their victims.

Police Tips for Staying Safe
Police state you should never have to pay money to get at your prize. If a contest is asking you for funds, even if they claim they are taxes, duties or other legitimate-sounding fees, you should be skeptical. If you receive a suspicious telephone call or letter, you can report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

To protect yourself from fraud, police say you should never be afraid to hang up the phone. Don’t give out any information about your finances, bank account or credit cards (even if they are just asking for the expiry date). Never give out passwords or access codes you use for your computer. Don’t let the seller pressure you with limited time offers or special deals. Never assume that someone contacting you with an exciting deal or offer is trustworthy, even if they claim to be from a company you recognize. And beware of a similar scam called the “prize pitch,” where you are promised an expensive prize, like a car, in return for a small purchase.

Preventing Fraud
The problem with fraudsters is that they are always changing just enough to try to avoid detection. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre provides a number of resources about known frauds and how to keep yourself safe from fraud.

If you do end up the victim of a scam, the CAFC has a volunteer program, SeniorBusters, that can provide moral and emotional support by putting you in touch with fellow seniors who can help you recover from the blows of being taken by a con artist.

The Competition Bureau of Canada has also published a comprehensive handbook on avoiding fraud. Their Little Black of Book of Scams can be downloaded here.

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