Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC): About us

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre was officially created in North Bay,Ontario, in January 1993 by Barry Elliott, a member of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Anti-Rackets Branch. The citizens of Northern Ontario were being targeted by telemarketing fraud, which at the time was an emerging scam. Barry's initiative became known as "Project PhoneBusters" and it consisted of Barry and a member of the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment investigating complaints and entering the victims’ information in a central-sourcing national database maintained by the OPP. The original mandate of PhoneBusters was to prosecute, under the Criminal Code of Canada, key individuals in Ontario and Quebec who were involved in telemarketing fraud. Early on,the Competition Bureau Canada played an important role in assisting with these investigations.

It wasn't long before PhoneBusters staff realized the problem was much bigger than they had originally thought – victims were calling from all over Canada. Many of them were senior citizens who had been repeatedly scammed and were looking for support. To address their needs, the SeniorBusters program was added in 1997. This program now involves approximately 50 volunteers who are senior citizens themselves. They provide education and awareness presentations to seniors groups and reach out to victimized seniors across the country, intervening in cases where seniors are targeted and are at risk. Seniors seem to be more receptive to hearing fraud prevention advice from someone their own age

As the magnitude of Project PhoneBusters became apparent, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the OPP in 2001, making the RCMP a contributing partner. Armed with a new strategy, the centre was renamed the PhoneBusters National Call Centre (PNCC).

In 2002, the PNCC's Intelligence Unit was enhanced to include an analytical component, which became the Criminal Intelligence and Analytical Unit (CIAU). This unit takes fraud data supplied by victims and complainants, analyzes it for connections between suspects and victims, then uses the data to prepare investigative reports. The reports are then shared with appropriate law enforcement agencies to provide them with support for potential criminal investigations. Other tasks performed by the CIAU include processing thousands of e-mail submissions, communicating with partner agencies across the country and around the world, and preparing monthly, quarterly and annual statistical reports.

Over time, technology improved, internet and e-mail use grew in popularity and scams evolved. The term "spam" was coined to describe the growing problem of unsolicited e-mail messages purporting to offer amazing deals on products or services. Many spam offers proved to be false, misleading or fraudulent. In 2006, as a result of the rapid growth in these deceptive marketing practices, the Competition Bureau Canada became the third official partner contributing to the CAFC and a participant in the Joint Management Team. Mandated to investigate deceptive marketing under the Competition Act, the Competition Bureau Canada was a welcome addition to the team.

In 2010, the PNCC was renamed the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) to reflect the fact that its scope had expanded beyond telemarketing fraud. The CAFC is jointly managed by the RCMP, OPP and the Competition Bureau Canada and its mandate has expanded to include many versions of Mass Marketing Fraud (MMF) – these frauds are essentially schemes that target many victims at the same time whether by telephone, facsimile, postal mail or the internet. Often, MMF involves identity crime, which includes identity theft and identity fraud. As a result, the CAFC also accepts these reports. With the Competition Bureau as a partner, the CAFC deals with deceptive marketing practices and with spam issues related to fraud.

The CAFC remains located in North Bay, the city where it was founded. The Call Centre Unit has 11 full-time Call Takers who are able to field more than 300 calls each day from citizens reporting frauds. Of those calls, the Centre logs data from more than 25,000 victims each year. The Call Takers are dedicated, trained anti-fraud specialists who provide advice on the steps that victims should take to recover lost funds and to protect themselves in the future. Each spring, the Call Centre takes on additional personnel to deal with the increased call volumes brought on by publicity for Fraud Awareness Month during the month of March.

The CAFC has established itself as Canada's central fraud data repository. It has become a trusted source for fraud data and for educational and prevention resource materials. The CAFC plays a crucial role in educating the public about specific mass marketing fraud pitches and in collecting and disseminating victim evidence, statistics and documentation, all of which are made available to law enforcement agencies.