March 31, 2014 7:28 pm
Updated: April 1, 2014 3:35 pm

Air Miles warns Canadians about telephone scam

The top three scams reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre include service scams, prize pitch scams and emergency (or "Grandparent") scams.

File / Global News

Air Miles is warning Canadians of suspicious telephone calls from a company claiming to be Air Miles and asking for personal information.

The  automated telemarketing scheme tells the recipient he or she has won prizes worth thousands in reward points or that they are calling to inform them of the status of their Collector account. They will then ask for the victim’s Collector’s account PIN or their credit card information, and subsequently steal their cash or awards points.

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“The Air Miles Reward Program has kept in constant contact with the appropriate authorities including Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre and the CRTC,” writes Nicole Rogers, public relations specialist, in an e-mail to Global News. “In the cases where fraud has occurred, the Collector’s Air Miles reward miles were not stolen, and in some cases, they received refunds from their credit card companies.”

Air Miles said they do not use automated messages to notify their clients of account updates or to reward them prize points. They also do not ask for credit card information under any circumstances.

The country-wide scam targets both reward program members and non-members. Between November, 2012 and March, 2014, 959 incidents have been reported, 489 of those in 2014 alone. Air Miles says it first became aware of the scam in 2011.

“To our knowledge, we have had three Collectors fall prey to the vacation scheme and each has agreed to work with us and the authorities in this,” said Air Miles. “We have put them in touch with an investigator at the CRTC looking into the matter.”

The “vacation scam” involves fraudulent solicitations from fake companies claiming to be Expedia, Air Miles, Air Canada or West Jet and has been making the rounds since June, 2010. Since then, the average loss per victim is estimated to be $913.83.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a central agency that collects information and intelligence on theft and fraud, there were 8,296 complaints in Canada concerning Canadian-based mass marketing fraud. Of those, 2,527 were victims of scams totalling more than $16 million.

The anti-fraud centre gets 300 calls a day, or 25,000 a year, from victims reporting fraud. Ontario is the most targeted province in Canada, with more than$17 million lost in 2012. People between the ages of 50 and 59 years reported losing the most money, with the payment method often being through a money service business.

Suspicious phone calls asking for personal information should be reported to the anti-fraud centre at 1-888-495-8501.

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