Scams can happen to anyone. A trustworthy voice tells you over the phone that you’ve won a prize from Better Homes and Gardens, and that all you have to do is pay the small advance fee and you can claim your winnings. You think to yourself, ‘well, I do subscribe to that magazine, and perhaps they pulled my name from a raffle’. It sounds plausible enough.
Fraudsters play a numbers game; they operate on a massive scale, sending the same message to thousands (if not more) people, in the hopes of hooking a few. Many of these fraudsters inordinately target Seniors, believing them to be an easier target.
In the interest of keeping Seniors informed, and secure against these predatory scams, we at Integracare want to put together a short guide. In the article ahead, we will provide an overview of consumer fraud in Canada, and how it targets Seniors specifically, as well as look at a few of the common scams to be aware of. We’ll discuss protection against fraud and, finally, what you can do if you’ve been scammed.
Consumer Fraud: A Growing Issue
According to the Government of Canada, fraud is the number one crime perpetrated against Seniors in this country. It is estimated that from 2014 to 2016 (the most recently collated data) Canadians lost more than $290 million to fraudsters.
While, as mentioned, fraud affects all Canadians, con artists typically target older adults more often, for a few reasons. For one, Seniors and older adults are more likely to be at home alone during the day; this means they will be present to take the call (or email), but it also means that there is a better chance they will have no one else around to ask about it. Singling a Senior out is a key tactic in the fraudster’s playbook.
These con artists also prey on those who may not be able to tell a stranger from a friend or family member. Seniors with Dementia, who can get confused more easily, or assume they have misremembered something, may be more likely to go along with a scam. If your loved one suffers from Dementia at home, and is alone sometimes, call us to learn more about how our Dementia care can help prevent financial abuse.
Common Frauds Targeting Seniors in Canada
There are a number of frauds out there, but they tend to fall into a few distinct categories. While the specific nature of each scam may change, there are some “red flag” types of calls to be aware of if you want to remain vigilant.
“You’ve Won a Prize”
The Prize scam, which we gave an example of in the first paragraph, is one of the most common scams. Although many variations exist, they all follow roughly the same format: they inform you that you have won something, but before you can claim your prize, they require either a payment, or credit card information. These scams can sound remarkably professional and natural, making them effective.
“Your Loved One is In Trouble”
In this scam, you might receive a call from someone claiming to be your family member (or friend of a family member, speaking on their behalf). As the script often goes, the family member was involved in an accident, or is in legal or financial trouble, and needs money urgently. This type of scam preys on emotional response, and is sometimes called the “Emergency scam” or the “Grandparents scam”.
“You Owe a Debt”
Be wary of anyone posing as the CRA, or Citizenship Canada, who demands that you pay them a debt outstanding. These scammers, often working by email, design their emails to look official, while asking for immediate payment. If you receive anything like this, take a moment and contact the CRA to verify – it’s not often the CRA will use terms like “urgent” or “immediate” when informing you of monies owed.
“I Can Offer You This Service…”
Service scams are quite common. The con artist pretends to work on behalf of a company that wants to offer you certain discounted services, requiring an upfront payment or credit card info. Or, in a common form of this scam, the fraudster creates a professional-appearing website, offering lower interest rates, anti-virus software, cheaper medicines, immigration help… the list goes on. If a site looks fishy, Google it to see if others can attest to its veracity.
How to Protect Against Fraud
Protection against fraud starts with being informed. One of the most valuable pieces of information that we can offer anyone, Seniors or younger adults, is never to give your money, banking info, credit card info, SIN or any other sensitive information to a stranger without first verifying their legitimacy.
If someone is claiming to represent your bank, don’t be afraid to hang up the phone on them, call the bank’s official help line and ask about the issue. If someone claims you have won a prize, they shouldn’t need your immediate payment; politely hang up and double check online whether others have been offered the same “prize”. And if a website’s services seem too good to be true, look them up online – they probably are too good to be true. Be critical, and be wary of anyone who needs money urgently.
This is obviously easier said than done for people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. If your loved one suffers from Dementia, look into our Dementia care in Toronto and Mississauga. Our expert caregivers can help protect against this sort of predation, while offering compassionate and caring assistance, as well as up to 24/7 supervision. Our high quality, private home health care makes aging in place a safer, happier and healthier prospect for all Seniors, including those living with Dementia.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed?
Whether you have fallen for the scam or not, report it. The best thing to do, if you think you’ve been contacted by a fraudster, is to report the number, email address or website address to your local police. Or you can call PhoneBusters at 1-888-495-8501 – that number connects you with the official Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which works with the RCMP to put a stop to scam artists. While you may not get your money back, your tip can help save others from getting scammed by the same con artist.
If you are worried about scams, the best you can do is be informed, be vigilant and be wary of anyone asking for money or personal information. If you are worried about an elderly loved one, whom you think might be vulnerable to scamming, contact Integracare about our at-home caregiver services; even having another presence in the home can sometimes be enough to protect against these con artists.
With enough information and intervention, hopefully we can make life more difficult for these con artists – especially those targeting Seniors.