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One in five Canadian consumers victimized by deceptive marketing: Visa


Despite being aware of misleading marketing practices, Canadians still falling prey to deceitful behaviour

Toronto, Visa, a leading global payments technology company, released a survey today that shows that 20 per cent of credit card holders have been a victim of unauthorized charges on their credit card as a result of an offer they accepted online or over the phone.

In a poll of more than a thousand Canadians on the awareness of deceptive marketing practices(1), results show that nearly eight in ten Canadians (78 per cent) are aware that such practices exist, yet instances of fraud still persist.

“Deceptive marketing practices come in many forms,” said Gord Jamieson, Head of Payment System Risk, Visa Canada. “While the majority of retailers are honest and legitimate, consumers need to be conscious that there may be fraudsters out there and they should think twice before accepting an offer that sounds too good to be true.”

Deceptive marketers ensnare unsuspecting consumers in a number of ways, such as by pre-checking consent boxes, burying the details of the offers in the terms and conditions and making cancellations or returns difficult. Once victimized, consumers can be caught in a cycle of recurring charges for products and services they do not want.

“Consumers can protect themselves by learning to recognize fraud and familiarizing themselves with some simple tips,” said Staff Sergeant, Paul Proulx, In Charge of Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (PhoneBusters). “Simple steps like reading and understanding the merchant terms and conditions and carefully reviewing your credit card statement each month can guard consumers from deceptive marketing scams.”

Promisingly, the survey showed that over nine in ten (91 per cent) credit card holders stated that they review their credit card statements for unauthorized charges when it arrives. Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents who were online shoppers said that they review a part of the terms and conditions of sale, but only half of this group (53 per cent) said they find the terms easy to understand.

Visa manages a suite of Global and Domestic market Acceptance Risk strategic policies, monitoring programs, and communications initiatives to protect cardholders, clients, merchants and the Visa brand from the high-risk activities of individual merchants and clients. To combat fraudulent retailers, Visa has enhanced its chargeback monitoring program to identify businesses that have excessive levels of cardholder disputes (a common characteristic of deceptive marketers). Once identified, Visa works with acquirers to deter and eliminate these types of dishonest merchants.

Visa offers consumers the following tips to help become a savvy shopper, and to avoid being a victim of deceptive marketing practices:

* Take time to read and understand all merchant terms and conditions so a free trial doesn’t turn into a costly purchase you didn’t intend to make.
* Pay particular attention to any pre-checked boxes before you submit your payment card information for an order. Failing to un-check the boxes may bind you to terms and conditions you’re not interested in.
* Review card statements when you get them for any unauthorized charges, and notify the card issuer promptly of any unusual activity or unauthorized charges.
* Try to resolve the situation with the merchant. If you’re unsuccessful, contact your Visa-issuing financial institution immediately to dispute the charge.
* Report your experience to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501 or emailing

Should fraud occur, Visa cardholders can have peace of mind knowing that under the Visa Zero Liability policy, they will not be liable for unauthorized use of their card if your card is lost, stolen, or if their card number is used fraudulently(2).

(1)This survey of 1,013 Canadians was conducted by Ipsos Reid between July 8, 2010 and July 15, 2010. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
(2)Visa cardholders must establish that the transaction is not their responsibility as per all applicable agreements of the issuing financial institution. Visa Purchasing, Visa Corporate, and Visa Commercial cards are excluded from the program.


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