Scam lessons

Looking back, Joyce Neilson remembers that all signs during the seminar pointed to a scam.

The senior had been invited to learn about a special travel club, and drove to New Westminster to hear more. The timing was perfect, she remembers, as travel had been on her mind of late.

Once there, she heard from company “higher-ups” about the limited-time offer to join, and didn’t hesitate to offer up a credit card deposit on a membership.

Driving home, away from the hype and pressure, she realized her mistake, and went back to cancel her membership.

“I tried to get my money back,” Neilson said. “They were very adamant – no, no, no.”

A call to the Better Business Bureau told her she had no recourse, so she cancelled her credit card to prevent further charges. She couldn’t recoup the $300 down payment, but the lesson wasn’t lost.

“You learn the hard way sometimes,” she said. “You get caught up in it. I would not have thought I’d have been caught.”

Neilson said she was not the only one with such a story to tell at Whitecliff Retirement Residence during last week’s B.C. Securities Commission (BCSC) seminar on investment fraud. A number of her Women’s Probus Club colleagues shared similar tales.

And BCSC’s Sandra Jakab said the women’s experiences are far from rare.

“More than one million Canadians have been defrauded in their lifetime,” Jakab told the group.

Sadly, half of all victims are introduced to scam artists – often unintentionally – by a friend, family member or work colleague.

Jakab and the commission’s Elizabeth O’Hea shared warning signs to watch for with the women, as part of BCSC’s ongoing efforts to protect investors from fraud:

- The promise of high returns with little or no risk;

- Offers of insider information. It is illegal both to share insider information and to act on it;

- The promise of an off-shore, tax-free investment;

- An opportunity to “profit like the experts”;

- Use of a “your friends can’t be wrong” sales tactic that relies on the trust placed in friends and the fear of not keeping up with them.

The bottom line is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, Jakab and O’Hea said.

They said the commission is focusing education efforts on retirees and pre-retiree boomers because the groups have less time to recoup losses, should they fall victim to a scam.

BCSC also runs programs for high school students.

Neilson described the information as “very, very useful. It’s something I think should be more widely spread... to keep people on their toes about investments,” she said. “I think there’s a lot that people don’t know. They certainly gave some very good hints about what to look for.”

For more information, visit

For information on the Probus club, call Lorraine Burns, 604-542-5825.

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