This year, as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, we are reminded of all that we have to be proud of and thankful for. Canada has long been a destination for people from many different countries and backgrounds to settle and establish new roots, while still maintaining a strong sense of self and cultural identity. Coast to coast, our diversity is a part of our Canadian values, and it is something we celebrate and are proud of.
Many new Canadians join organizations and groups to integrate themselves into the community and meet others who share their culture. Unfortunately, dishonest people exist worldwide (Canada is no exception), and fraudsters target people based on perceived vulnerabilities. New citizens may experience a language barrier, or be less informed about regulations and how investments work in Canada. Sadly, scam artists are adept at lying and swindling people out of their hard-earned money and use all of these opportunities to exploit people. Specifically, affinity fraud is a common type of scam in groups like these.
Affinity fraud is when a scam artist infiltrates an organization or group and pitches a fake investment opportunity to its members. Those first members who believe the opportunity to be legitimate become unwitting participants, because they spread the word to other members of the group. This second wave of people then buy in to the opportunity, believing it to be trustworthy because the information is coming from their friend, neighbour or someone in their congregation. This can create a snowball effect, allowing the scam to spread throughout a large group very quickly.
Although these risks exist, they can be mitigated when people are aware of them, watch for red flags, and ask the right questions. Even if an investment opportunity arises through a friend or someone you trust, it’s imperative that you ask questions, do your homework and verify the information you are being given. The first step is to check and see if the advisor or company is registered, which anyone who sells an investment that is a security must be, according to Alberta laws (with few exceptions). You can do this via www.checkfirst.ca. After that, continue your research – request and review all documentation related to the investment, and consult with an objective, unrelated third party with business knowledge, such as a lawyer or accountant.
Canadian Securities Administrators
Affinity Fraud Checklist