How to protect your loved ones from becoming the victim of a scam
It seems like every day there is a new scheme to beware of or the latest fraud to watch out for. As technology in our everyday lives evolves, the techniques of fraudsters and scammers evolve too. And as these types of scams become more elaborate and increasingly prevalent, some people become more vulnerable to getting conned. One group of people who need our support are senior citizens.
Research shows that 5.4% of older adults are victims of a financial crime, with a high likelihood that an even larger number have not reported. In the United States, it is estimated that victims of scams and fraud are losing over $36 million annually.
As the family and community members of people who may not be technologically savvy or could be easily taken advantage of, it’s important to remain aware of the types of scams that occur and how to protect our loved ones and neighbours from becoming a target. Here are five of the more common forms of senior fraud to watch out for and how to protect your loved one from becoming a victim:
Type of scam: Phone Scams
Phone scams are one of the most common scams used against the elderly. Scammers could trick seniors into wiring them money by pretending to be a family member, a fake charity asking for donations, or as in a recent case here in Canada, pretending to be the CRA demanding they repay back taxes.
What to do:
Warn your loved ones about the types of scam calls they could receive, especially if there is one going around at the time. Remind them to never give out financial information or personal information, such as their Social Insurance Number, over the phone.
Type of scam: Romance Scams
With the ever-growing rise of online dating, romance scams are becoming more and more common. In this scenario, a scammer will post a fake online dating profile and develop a romantic online relationship with a victim, gaining their trust, and eventually convincing the victim to send them money.
What to do:
Warn your loved ones about the risks of dating online. Tell them to be wary of anyone who seems to rush into the relationship too quickly, especially if they claim live to work overseas, and not to send them money for any reason — ever!
Type of scam: Vacations & Prizes
It is not uncommon to receive a call that declares, “Congratulations! You have just won a free 7-day Caribbean cruise!” or something of the like. As much as we would love for it to be true, these calls are scams. Normally, after advising you of the prize you have “won”, you will be asked to stay on the line where the scammers will then request a sum for taxes or services fees before you are able to receive your prize. However, there is no prize.
What to do:
Protect your loved ones by reminding them that you must purchase a ticket to win the lottery or enter a draw to win a prize. Remind them not to give any financial information over the phone or send money to strangers.
Type of scam: Door-to-Door Sales or Service Scams
Service scams are when victims are tricked into paying for a much more expensive service than what they originally needed. You may have heard on the news about a recent “bait and switch” scam, in which scam victims would hire a low-cost repair technician to come to the house and check out the problem with their heating or air conditioning unit. Rather than fixing the real problem or replacing the part, the technician tells the homeowner the problem is much more serious and convinces them to buy a whole new system, which costs thousands of dollars. Often times, these technicians are not even licensed.
Another service scam example is one where computer repair technicians trick victims into believing their computer has been hacked or attacked by a virus, then running up large false repair fees to resolve the “problem”.
What to do:
Remind the seniors in your life not to give personal or financial information over the phone and to never allow unsolicited callers access to their computers. Encourage them to always get a second opinion for any service with large fees or to have a friend or family member with them when the technician comes around.
Type of scam: Poor Business Practices
Some business aren’t scammers or liars, but they do take advantage of seniors. There are some slimy sales people who seek out vulnerable widows or widowers or attend church or community functions to find out which seniors live alone, only to convince them to buy their product or service. Though they may not be lying or stealing, they use exaggerated and deceptive business practices to make the sale.
What to do:
Talk to your loved ones about financial matters and ask them to come to you when making large financial decisions. Remind them not to give any personal or financial information over the phone or to strangers.
Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters are a reality of life. But by remaining vigilant and aware of the common scams out there, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones. Remember to talk to the seniors in your life about common scams, remind them not to give any financial information over the phone, and be wary of any new friends or “sweethearts” they may have made. By keeping the lines of communication open, we can all stay safe from scammers.
If you think someone has tried to defraud you or if you have been a victim of fraud you are urged to report it to your local police service and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call them toll free at 1 (888) 495-8501.