The Canada Safety Council’s National Senior Safety Week runs from November 6 to 12, and this year’s focus is on fighting fraud and protecting your finances. Not an easy task considering fraud costs Canadians an estimated 10 billion annually according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The RCMP’s Seniors Guidebook to Safety and Security lists a number of nefarious scams targeting older adults. There is a comprehensive list of different ways criminals prey on trusting older adults who may be vulnerable. Some of the scams included are:
The Grandchild in Trouble
A criminal calls the grandparent pretending to be a grandchild away from home and in trouble with the law. The grandparent is asked not to call any other relatives because the grandchild doesn’t want to get into more trouble. The trusting grandparent is asked to wire thousands of dollars to make bail.
RCMP Tip: Never send money through money wire services to persons you do not know personally. The money can be picked up anywhere in the world once it is given a transaction number.
The Pigeon Drop
The Swindlers claim to have found or won a large amount of money and offer to share it with you. You are asked to withdraw ‘good faith’ money and give it to the swindlers. In return they give you a phony address where you can collect your share of the money.
RCMP Tip: Never turn over large sums of cash to anyone, especially a stranger, no matter how promising the deal looks.
The Public Utility Imposter Scam
Two strangers show up at your front door claiming to be public utility company inspectors. One stranger will have you lead them to your gas meter or electrical panel while the second one asks to use the washroom, the telephone or just waits upstairs. The second stranger will then rob you of your medications or valuables with the crime often going undetected for a long time.
RCMP Tip: Call the public service department of the utility company and confirm the identity of the apparent inspectors.
Online scams have become increasingly popular. The 2012 RCMP Panel Discussion called How Can Police Stay Ahead of the Latest Digital Scams? claims that, “there’s even a ‘Scam Victim Compensation Center Scam’ that targets those who’ve already been victimized”.
In 2012, The Government of Canada’s Competition Bureau published the The Little Black Book of Scams. The book contains myth busters and the golden rules on how to avoid being scammed.
In an effort to help older adults ‘battle against mass marketing and identity fraud the Government of Canada’s Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre created the Senior Busters Program. Staffed by volunteers, the centre helps fraud victims by offering support and educating older adults on scams.
According the RCMP, 9 out of 10 victims of fraud don’t speak about it. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of fraudulent activity contact the police immediately.