International mail scams

The mail system has always been used by fraudsters as a means to initiate contact with potential victims. Traditionally, victims primarily reported solicitations for prize and lottery notifications. Currently, the CAFC receives reports on over 25 different scam types where contact is made through the mail. Several scams are highlighted below.

Inheritance scam (Foreign Money Offer)

Consumers receive a solicitation through the mail offering or requesting assistance to transfer a large sum of money from a foreign country. In many cases, the potential victim is advised that a distant relative has died and they are entitled to a large inheritance. Before any funds can be released, the consumer must pay one or more fees upfront. This is sometimes referred to as Nigerian, 419 or West African fraud. Consumers report receiving solicitations from Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Brazil, Japan, Italy, Malaysia and South Africa.

Warning signs - How to protect yourself

  • Beware of persons looking for a trustee or heir. Legitimate estates do not solicit in this manner.
  • Beware of tragic deaths and persons looking for help moving a large sum of money.
  • Discard any mailing offering a percentage of a fortune for doing little else than providing banking details.

Prize scams

Consumers receive a solicitation in the mail advising they have won, or have a chance at winning, a prize or lottery. The "winner" must first purchase something or pay an advance fee such as taxes to receive the prize. In addition, some solicitations claims the consumer is a winner in a foreign lottery, fees are requested upfront to collect winnings despite the fact that the consumer did not travel to purchase tickets. Consumers report receiving solicitations from Canada, United States, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Australia, Spain, Hong Kong, South Africa, Ireland, Iceland and Switzerland.

Warning signs - How to protect yourself

  • Be aware of notifications requesting that you keep the winnings confidential.
  • Don't respond to any mailings of this kind, it will only result in an increase of junk mail, even if you just return to sender.
  • There are never any fees or taxes in Canada if you have truly won a prize. If you won, it's free.

Psychic scams

Consumers receive a solicitation in the mail from a psychic offering services. Notifications vary from offering financial freedom in the form of predicting lottery numbers to providing a gift or lucky charm to removing a jinx. The consumer is instructed to send a fee, usually in cash, to sign up or continue services. Consumers who pay the initial fee often receive follow up notifications that their name will be sent to collections if payments are not fulfilled, or a curse will be placed on them. Consumers report receiving solicitations from Canada, United States and the Netherlands.

Warning signs - How to protect yourself

  • Fraudsters will only help in return for a fee; refusal to pay may result in a threat of a curse or bad luck charm.
  • Never send any money or personal information to the fraudster, responding can result in an increase in junk mail.
  • Beware of requests to call 1-900 numbers as these are pay per minute numbers.

Were you a victim?

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Toll-free: 1-888-495-8501

Competition Bureau of Canada
Toll-free: 1-800-348-5358

Ontario Provincial Police
Toll-free: 1-888-310-1122

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
Toll-free: 1-866-461-3222

Better Business Bureau
(BBB Locator Tool)


Fraud: Recognize, report and stop it!

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