Grandma tells you she won $10,000 but needs to wire a small fee overseas to collect the prize. While red flags may be going up for you, Grandma thinks she really won – and she’s not alone. According to the government of Canada, fraud is the number one crime against older Canadians.
Why Are Seniors Targeted?
From January 2014 to December 2016, Canadians age 60 to 79 lost an estimated $28 million to various scams. Seniors make attractive targets, for several reasons:
- Seniors may be lonely. Desire for human connection can make them more likely to trust someone who takes the time to build a relationship with them.
- Seniors may have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, which can cause changes in judgment and decision-making.
- Seniors are likely to have some money saved, and often own their own home. They are also likely to have good credit, which makes them ideal targets of scams.
- In general, seniors were raised to be polite and trusting. They do not feel comfortable saying “no” or hanging up the telephone.
- Seniors who have been scammed are unlikely to report the crime because they are ashamed. They may also fear that if their family finds out, they will lose control of their finances.
Education Is the Best Prevention
Find some time to talk with your loved ones about fraud. Your talk will be more productive if you convey an attitude of warmth and caring. Go through these tips from The Winnipeg Police to help your family recognize and avoid common fraud techniques:
- Never send money to anyone from an unsolicited phone call or email
- Avoid providing sensitive personal information online or over the phone in situations you did not initiate
- Research any request for money before making a commitment
- Find a "Fraud Buddy" — someone whose advice you respect — and run any request for money by them before you commit to it
- Never feel pressured to make a quick decision
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
If you suspect someone in your life has already fallen for a scam, ask yourself if you have noticed any of these warning signs:
- Have you noticed an increase in the amount of mail with lottery winnings or too-good-to-be-true offers at your loved one’s home?
- When you visit, does the phone ring often? If so, are the people on the other end offering get-rich-quick schemes? Requests for donations from charities you’ve never heard of?
- Is your loved one secretive regarding phone calls or emails?
- Is your loved one having trouble paying regular bills? Did they ask you for a loan?
- Have you noticed cheques or withdrawals made to unfamiliar companies in your loved one’s banking records?
- Have you noticed wire transfers to countries in Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, act quickly. Once someone has fallen for a scam, they are placed on an easy target list that is sold from one scammer to another. The phone calls, emails or mailings will increase. First, report the scam. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates less than 5 percent of frauds are ever reported. Then, change any credit cards, bank accounts or personal information the scammers may have accessed.
It is very hard to win big in a lottery you’ve never entered, and it is very hard to scam someone who knows what to look out for. Educate yourself, educate your loved ones and recognize, reject and report fraud.
For more information, check out:
The Competition Bureau Little Black Book of Scams.
The Competition Bureau Fraud Facts 2017
The Better Business Bureau Top 10 Scams 2016
The Winnipeg Police Romance Scam Video