Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean has kicked off the 14th annual Fraud Prevention Month to help Albertans recognize, report and stop fraud.
Throughout this month, the government is partnering with local police forces, RCMP, Revenue Canada, Better Business Bureaus, crime-prevention groups and business organizations to raise awareness about different types of scams and share tips using the #FPM2018 hashtag.
“Be it email fraud or an unscrupulous contractor, no one should be scammed into a bad deal and have their trust betrayed. Information is the best defence against fraud, and Fraud Prevention Month is a good time to share tips and remind Albertans that we have strengthened our consumer laws to protect their pocketbooks and help honest businesses succeed.”
~Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta
In Alberta, home renovation fraud remains one of the most common complaints received by Service Alberta. Recently, there has been an increase in unlicensed, pre-paid contractors using online advertising to deceive Albertans about qualified and licensed services that don’t necessarily exist.
With spring renovation season around the corner, this is the latest tactic used by unlicensed contractors who take deposits and don’t complete the work. In Alberta, contractors who take money up front in your home or away from their place of business must be licensed and post security. Currently, the majority of all active investigations by Alberta’s Consumer Investigations Unit are related to contractors operating without a licence or outside of the regulations.
The provincial government is working to make life better for Albertans with new consumer protection laws, a ban on door-to-door sales and a 37-member Consumer Investigations Unit that takes action to protect Albertans from scams, bad deals and fraud. In the last fiscal year, their investigations led to the courts ordering over $1 million in fines and restitution back to consumers.
“Mortgage fraud prevention and investigation is part of our mandate, and we know that knowledge is power for consumers. During Fraud Prevention Month and throughout the year, RECA works with its partners – including Service Alberta – to ensure consumers have information and resources that will help them avoid becoming a victim.”
~Brian Klingspon, chair, Real Estate Council of Alberta
“In 2017, Calgarians lost over $61 million in fraud-related crimes. It’s important that all citizens know how to recognize and protect themselves from a scam, whether it’s done over the phone, in person or online. We’re pleased to work with our fraud-prevention partners to help citizens become more fraud-aware.”
~Staff Sgt. Jeremy Wittman, Calgary Police Service Cyber/Forensics Unit
Tips for consumers
- If a contractor wants payment up front, check if they are a licensed and bonded business at servicealberta.ca or by calling the Consumer Protection Line, toll-free at 1-877-427-4088.
- Do not blindly respond to online advertisements for contractors without first verifying qualifications and licensing.
- Get at least three estimates before entering into a contract.
- Always get estimates and contracts in writing; make sure they include key dates, cancellation rights and a description of materials to be used.
- You may cancel a contract up to 10 days after you receive a copy, if the written contract is solicited, agreed upon or signed at your home or at another location away from the contractor’s normal place of business.
Service Alberta has also prepared convenient tip sheets to help Albertans educate and protect themselves. Topics include:
- Door-to-door sales (pdf)
- Identity theft (pdf)
- Mortgage fraud (pdf)
- Charitable fundraising (pdf)
- Home renovations (psf)