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Here's what would happen if you press 1 to claim a free vacation

Friday, August 16, 2013   by: Carol Martin

Sault Ste. Marie and everyone in the 705 area code is currently being blanketed with calls from an automated system saying they have won a free vacation from Shopper's Drug Mart. 

In this scheme, the message tells people to press 1 on their phone to claim their prize.

From Saturday, July 13 to Friday, August 9 Shoppers Drug Mart was running a dream summer vacation promotion in which shoppers could receive a ballot to win a vacation with certain purchases in the store but the calls people in the 705 area code are currently receiving have nothing to do with Shopper's Drug Mart, says senior call taker supervisor for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Daniel Williams.

"If you won a prize the people you won it from would be calling you directly, not using an automated calling system to contact you," he said.

If someone presses 1 to claim the prize they are switched to a vacation marketing company and someone tries to sell them a vacation.

"It's certainly not a free vacation," says Williams. "Based on what victims of this scheme tell us, it's not the worst deal possible but it's not a great deal by any means."

People who decide to take one of the offers made to them would end up using a credit card to pay a deposit anywhere from $400 to $1,000 for a vacation that is real but is probably not a very good deal for a number of reasons.

Pressing 1 also makes your number a ripe target for telephone marketing at the time of day that the call was completed and guarantees you will get a lot more telemarketers calling at that time of day, says Williams.

What pressing 1 isn't doing is giving the caller authority to bill their number for 900 calls, he adds.

What's happening in this scheme is that a telemarketing company located anywhere in the world is using devices and software to sequentially call every number in an area code with a phony claim that the person they are calling has won a prize.

They are calling police, fire, ambulance and business lines as well as private cell phone numbers and unlisted phone numbers because the auto dialer is dialing numbers in sequence, not from any lists.

If the person on the end of the line responds by pressing 1 that person is either switched to an agent who tries to sell the person a vacation package or to dead air.

If asked about their association with Shoppers Drug Mart or what ever company name the telemarketing company used to get people to press 1 the travel agent on the phone will usually say their company contracts out the telemarketing to another company and hopes their is no deception on the part of the telemarketing company as it tries to bring as many people to the travel agents as possible.

Sometimes people get dead air when they press 1 because there are not enough agents available to answer all the calls that are being switched so the calls may be dropped.  

The calls appear to have come from within the area code the company is working on but that in itself is a deception. 

The telemarketers are using caller ID spoofing technology to make it appear that the call is local and more likely that a target will pick up the call.

"They know that many consumers are less likely to pick up a call from a blocked number or a number from a strange area code," says Williams.

Ironically, Williams says people programming the caller ID spoofing program will sometimes use the phone number of someone who has bought a vacation through the scheme but more often they just select any number from the area code to appear on caller ID. 

Caller ID spoofing can make a call appear to have come from any phone number the caller wishes and for as long as the caller wants that number to be displayed.

Williams says people using this technology usually use a number for a set number of calls, say 1,000 or so, to prevent potential targets from getting wise to the scheme. 

The number is usually changed fairly frequently, though.

While a number is being displayed on the caller ID it causes a lot of problems for people that number belongs to when people call the number back to see if the deal is for real.

"We see people changing their numbers," says Williams. 

The upside is that it usually doesn't last for long.

"We've seen them go through an area code in about three weeks," he says.

Williams says that, if you feel you have been the victim of fraud in this or any of the other telephone, internet or mail schemes that continue every day you should first call the police and make a report then report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

If you've given your credit card number to the agent, make sure you check your statement carefully to make sure you aren't charged more than you agreed to pay or you haven't been charged for products or services you never purchased.

Any charges not authorized by the card holder, for products or services not received or that are significantly different from what the vendor claimed they would be can be disputed with the credit card company.

He says people who are considering offers of vacation deals should ask for something in writing, compare the offer to others that may be available online or through their local travel agencies and then decide if they want to take a chance on the offer.

Even if the offer is legitimate it may not be the best deal available on a vacation and it will guarantee you a lot more calls from telemarketers who are not bound by Canadian laws because they are not likely to be located in Canada.

"They like to put some distance and a border between the call centre and its targets," says Williams. "It's a world wide problem. We see call centres in Canada targeting people in Australia, centres in India or Bangladesh targeting Canada and back and forth between Canada and the USA."

All the schemes and scams coming from call centres around the world are keeping the people at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre busy.

"We're never waiting for a call," says Williams. 

Another common scheme that is keeping them busy is the Microsoft scheme.

A telemarketer will call claiming to be from Microsoft or a company subcontracted by Microsoft.

The caller says viruses have been detected on the target's computer and they can remove them if they allow one of their technicians to remotely access the computer.

"If you've allowed them access you should assume that every file in your computer has been copied and read," says Williams. "Change all your passwords and login names, especially to sensitive financial information and closely monitor your credit card and bank account activity after that. Check your Equifax and Trans Union reports to make sure there is no suspicious activity under your name. Be vigilant."

He said that, so far, he hasn't seen people charged more than they authorize these callers to charge on their credit cards but there are a lot more dangers in this scheme than being over charged on a credit card.

Keyloggers can be installed and remote access points opened on target's computers leaving them vulnerable to a host of dangers.

With a keylogger, a program that monitors what keys are struck on the keyboard, a person anywhere in the world can see what the target is typing, including login names and passwords as well as bank account numbers and websites visited.

With remote access someone anywhere in the world can use your computer for what ever they want, including pornography downloading, dissemination of hate material and denial of service attacks on other computers.

Typically the technician will do things that make it look like the system is not working properly.

They can do this by displaying alarming messages, slowing the computer down, redirecting internet navigation or restarting the computer then demand payment to resolve the "problem".

It is also possible for Trojan software, which gains privileged access to the operating system while appearing to perform a desirable function, to be installed to recruit the machine to a botnet, or hacked.

A botnet is a collection of internet-connected programs communicating with other similar programs in order to perform tasks.

Those tasks could include sending spam email, downloading private or copyrighted information or pornography from other computers or doing the dirty work for a hacker.

"We sometimes see computers being used remotely to find more targets," says Williams. 

If you've allowed someone suspicious to remotely access your computer and you see it slow down or do some odd things like access the internet when you aren't it may be time for some professional help with it.


Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Notperfect 8/16/2013 8:06:04 PM Report

Yes, do beware. This morning, I did receive a call, re: my computer & microsoft. I did not fall for it. (If you google the phone number, you can see what others say.)

We also received a very official looking letter indicating that we had won $2 million. We just needed to send $15 for processing. The return address was Kansan. (We did not fall for it but, in showing to a friend, he said he would take the chance and send the $15.)

Have received numerous scam efforts this week.
Sam C 8/16/2013 8:19:29 PM Report

Not perfect... these scammers are counting on people like your friend. Yeah, he could take a chance and maybe only lose $15... but the scammer gains $15 for every victim who figures it's worth a try.

Calling every number in an area code, it wouldn't take long for that to add up to $1M.
mallet 8/16/2013 8:38:47 PM Report

Sam C..

I am wondering why the DO NOT CALL list is allowing these people to operate. You have to spend money using the "star69" to find out the number for the DNC list people to get the number. I think the CRTC should be making the phone companies pay for any call regarding the list. If the DNC people were a bit more on the job this would not be a problem for most people..
Pakadeva 8/17/2013 12:38:01 AM Report

I got the won a vacation call a couple of weeks ago, I kept the guy talking for a good 20-30 minutes. He thought I was hooked! I asked if there was somewhere I could check it out...oh yes, we are online...gave me the link..."sounds" like a popular vacation spot, BUT, it is spelled differently....Sandos versus Sandals resorts. I scrolled to the bottom of the page & asked how long they had been in business, oh, 23 years years! Hmmmm, that's strange, your site copyright says 2013! Oh, they probably updated the site lately, there's always new things being added. OK then, however, this is not correct, I own a website & if I update the content, the year of copyright stays the same! At this point he was offering 3 or 4 vacations for 4 people anywhere in the world for $800.00. Every place he named I had already visited or didn't want to go. Finally he asked for my credit card are definitely NOT getting my credit card number cause this is a scam, now, I gave you the courtesy of listening, so YOU give me the courtesy of removing me from your list. He was not happy! LOL Was I concerned? NOT! Be careful cause they get craftier by the minute!
hog.rider 8/17/2013 2:52:26 AM Report


Your copyright bit sounded a bit off to me, so I just checked a few things, for example sootoday site says copyright 2013, but I seem to recall reading their site last year so they aren't a new company! Then I checked the Heinz ketchup site, it too said 2013, surely you don't think they are a new company.... Perhaps the guy on the phone was correct and got a little chuckle like I did lol
JellyFisch 8/17/2013 3:49:40 AM Report

The DNC list is only adhered to companies calling you to buy product or subscribe to something.

People who commit fraud hardly care for the DNC list, and probably don't have access to it.
Skyferret 8/17/2013 4:20:38 AM Report

I had one of those "your computer is infected" calls from some idiot claiming to be from Microsoft. I was not at my computer but I made him think I was. He's telling me to do this and that, and I know what I should be seeing by what he says. I had him going till I said some explicate things to him and calling him a piece of s**t scammer before hanging up. I think the next time they call, I'll tell them I've got my IP Phone Modem connected to my computer and I'm about to invoke a UDP containing a data packet that will fry their LAN system with a DoS virus and say "and I got my finger over Enter key, what's it going to be chum"? They probably get a bit worried and hang up pretty quick.
kamen 8/17/2013 9:11:45 AM Report

SkyFerret that is the best thing I've read yet lol I hate getting calls from telemarketers, real ones or not. But with real ones you say no three times, and they have to say thank you for your time and end the call. The rule in telemarketing is three no's and a go, meaning if the person you call says no three times, they have to let you go. Keep that in mind. Even if a scammer calls you, try it. They might hang up too as to not get caught as a scammer. Just let them know that you are aware of the 3 no and a go rule, and that it is time they move on and not to call you. Or just tell them you have recently filed for bankruptcy, if you don't have any cash and bad credit, they usually leave you alone and take you off their lists.
Carol Martin 8/17/2013 12:42:17 PM Report

These folks are not using lists. They are using an auto-dialer that goes through every number in the area code sequentially. That's why they are calling numbers that are unlisted, cell phone numbers and everyone - stores, police cell phones, ambulance dispatch centres - every number there is. I bet they even hit all the payphones, too.
right wing 8/17/2013 12:48:30 PM Report

Simple solution.
Use caller I.D. to screen your calls.
If we do not recognize the number or it says private caller we do not answer the phone.
We let it go to voice mail.
If it is somebody that we wish to call back they will leave a message and get a return call.
We get many hangups with this method, hangups that are folks we don't need to talk to.
Notperfect 8/17/2013 6:52:00 PM Report

It may not be so 'simple". Since our phone number is unlisted as are the nos. of most of our family, the ONLY calls we do answer are the ones that say "Private caller". I have found that numbers do display for scammers. This week, I received calls from 3 scammers and the nos. displayed. I googled the nos. and found that it did indicate on the internet that they were scammers. (i.e. Check out 425-406-9022 on the internet.) Our no. is on the national 'do not call' list but this list is not effective.
theprotector 8/19/2013 9:33:51 AM Report

I found the best thing to do is ask them to hold on a second then wisper just away from the phone..."ok its them start recording...."
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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