Who is that mystery caller? A primer on telephone scams

We’ve all experienced it at one time or another: the phone rings and the voice on the other end of the line tells you that you’ve won a lottery you didn’t even play. That should be your first clue that something is amiss.

To recognize Fraud Prevention Month, My StartUp brings you a series of blogs throughout the month of March written by Business Counsellors from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). They field hundreds of calls every year from small businesses that have experienced an attempt to defraud them. They’ve heard all the scams and they know what to look for.

Today’s edition offers a few helpful reminders to protect your business from falling for a bogus scheme over the phone.


One of the most valuable resources you have as a small business owner is time. Your day includes finding new market opportunities, monitoring your sales, and keeping an eye on business operations, while staying in compliance with regulations. It is fair to say you don’t have the luxury to waste time.

ss_auto_mechanic_93522841_jpgPeriodically, you may receive a “friendly” phone call suggesting you’re not in compliance with xyz. Often these types of phone calls do not end without the individual over the phone extracting a promise of action (you want more information, you set up an appointment etc.).  You may have walked blindly into an “over-the-phone scam”.

How do you prevent this from happening?

  • Never feel pressured by any company to purchase or obtain further information on the spot.
  • While the government creates many new rules and regulations, in my experience they do not call business owners to inform them of any changes – make sure you are, in fact, speaking with a government agent.
  • You should feel comfortable and confident to inform a caller that you will check with your industry association to get further details (CFIB members can call a Business Resource Counsellor for advice)
  • Never feel you need to provide your personal contact information, business address or credit card information.
  • If you are given a price or a cost of compliance, you may want to shop around to see if there are any other resources that provide the same content at an affordable price (or even free).

Often these callers get aggressive, continuing to phone you constantly.  REMEMBER: many great small businesses are out there just like you, hoping to make the right connections to grow! However, if you feel these are not those types of calls, you can always reach out to:

As always, you have the option to search online for the organization’s website: look for details such as a logo – if it is false “government” look-a-like website, Google the organization’s name and see if any other businesses/people have made complaints about similar concerns.

fraud_logo_colorWhen in doubt, don’t forget you can simply say thanks but no thanks and hang up the phone.


CesarCesar Gomez Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping its members, who are small business owners, with questions about compliance. These questions cover such areas as Employment Standards, Health and Safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passions are reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar by clicking here.

Cesar Gomez, CFIB Business Counsellor

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