Friday, June 4, 2010

How to deal with scam or unwanted phone calls in Canada

There have been a lot of unwanted phone calls reaching my household lately, so I though it was time to share some of the ways we, Canadians can deal with them.

There is a vast variety of unwanted telephone calls: regular telemarketing, automated diallers with and without pre-recorded messages, political or charity requests, plus a huge variety of scams. There's no way to address all of those in a single blog post, but I will attempt to at least provide a good starting point.


For suspicious phone calls and suspected scam attempts call Phone Busters, a national anti-fraud call centre jointly operated by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. To quote their site:

It's not always easy to spot phone scams, and new ones are invented every day. If you suspect that you may be a target of fraud, or if you have already sent funds, don't be embarrassed - you're not alone. If you want to report a fraud, or if you need more information, contact CAFC – PhoneBusters.

There is no easy way to report a suspicious phone call directly from their site, but their toll-free numbers and email are listed below:

  • Toll Free: 1-888-495-8501
  • Fax: (705) 494-4755
  • Toll Free Fax: 1-888-654-9426
  • Email:

For all others, the first place to go is, of course, Government of Canada, after all that's what we're paying taxes for. On June 30, 2006 Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has created a National Do Not Call List (DNCL), it allows Canadians to sign up to prevent certain telemarketers from contacting them. In addition to providing a way to add your phone number to national DNC registry, their site provides a wealth of information on DNCL, Telemarketing and Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device (ADAD) rules. Here's some excellent points excerpted from CRTC's web site:

  • Among other things, telemarketers must:
    • identify who they are and, upon request, provide you with a fax or telephone number where you can speak to someone about the telemarketing call
    • display the telephone number that they are calling from or that you can call to reach them, and
    • only call or send faxes between 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekends.
  • Telemarketers must not use Automatic Dialing and Announcing Device (devices that dial telephone numbers automatically and deliver a pre-recorded message). However, these devices can be used by police and fire departments, schools and hospitals, as well as for appointment reminders and thank you calls.
  • For more information, see Part III and Part IV of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules.

CRTC also allows Canadians to complain about a telemarketing or ADAD calls directly from their site. If you wish to file a complaint by phone, call their toll-free numbers listed below.

  • Toll-free: 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625)
  • Toll-free TTY device: 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889) only if you are calling from a TTY device

Unfortunately, there is quite a large list of exceptions to CRTC's rules, that's why Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa has created, a website that enables Canadians to opt-out of many exempted organizations with a few easy clicks at no cost. On July 26, 2006 CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein personally ruled that do not call requests from third parties, such as, are to be considered valid requests and must be honoured. Alas, the site seems to be down at the time of this writing.

My personal advice, when contacted by a telemarketer don't just hang up or simply tell them you're not interested, make sure to ask for and note company's name, representative's name, extension or some form of unique identification number. Then directly and expressly request to be placed on their internal DNCL and DNCLs of all their partner and mother organizations. All organizations except for market research firms are required to comply with your request by law, and if they don't – complain via channels listed above! CRTC can levy penalties of up to $1,500 for an individual and up to $15,000 for a corporation, for each violation, so hit them where it hurts.