Avoiding Scams that Target Seniors

Friday, November 14, 2014

senior-checking-walletSeniors are valued members of our society, our communities, and our families. As a community, it is our responsibility to do what we can to ensure their safety and wellness.

Seniors are frequently targets of fraudulent scams. National Senior Safety Week is November 6 to 12. It’s a good time to raise awareness of common scams and offer tips on keeping Alberta seniors safe from fraudsters.



Why seniors make excellent targets for scams

  • Seniors usually have more disposable income, and excellent credit, making them easy targets.
  • Alberta seniors are often alone, and have more time to take phone calls, browse online deals, and read the mail.
  • An increased life expectancy and the higher cost of living makes seniors concerned about having enough money saved. “Get rich quick” solutions become very attractive to them.  
  • Seniors can be more trusting, which makes it easier for fraudsters to deceive them.

Scams that seniors in Alberta need to be aware of

  • Telemarketing Fraud: Calls to seniors make up the largest percentage of telemarketing calls. The caller asks to be sent cash to pay for the delivery of a prize, and asks for personal banking and/or credit card information, or money for a pledge or charity.
  • Theft by Power of Attorney: This type of scam is when someone who has been given Power of Attorney to manage finances for a senior family member abuses the position. He or she steals money from pensions, take out personal loans and use credit cards for personal use.
  • Identity Theft: This happens when someone uses the senior’s personal information to obtain access to money, order false passports, apply for loans or mortgages, and take advantage of government benefits.
  • Grandparent Scam: In most situations, a grandparent will receive a phone call from someone declaring to be a grandchild or to know a grandchild. The caller claims the grandchild is in trouble and asks for money to be sent. The money is often sent via Western Union, e-transfer or another Internet method. It is usually untraceable once it leaves the bank account.
  • False Charities: Fake charity scams often target seniors because of their generous nature. Seniors are contacted via email, mail, or phone. Fraudsters use fake charity names that are close to legitimate and well-known charities to gain trust.
  • “Get Rich Quick” Scheme: These are those "once-in-a-lifetime" offers that promise huge returns. They are delivered via an email, door-to-door salespeople, or phone calls. Ponzi schemes are common forms of these.  Investors are guaranteed large returns on their money in a short amount of time, but only the initial investors actually reap the rewards.
  • Home Improvement Fraud: Fraudulent contractors use high-pressure tactics to convince seniors that their renovation services are needed.
  • Door-to-door sale scams: Con artists try to encourage older adults to buy unnecessary products or services.

Tips to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a scam

  • Keep your personal banking information safe. Never give out your bank account, PIN (Personal Identification Number) or credit card information over the phone, email or on the Internet. Do not even share your personal information with your family and friends.
  • Donate only to charities and foundations that are reputable and known to you. Contact the charity directly if you wish to make a donation.
  • Never allow a stranger into your home. It’s easier to close the door on them while they are outside, than to get rid of them once they are inside your home.
  • Never pay cash for a product or service up front, or rely on verbal promises to deliver them.
  • Never rush into a purchase or investment because you are being pressured by a salesperson. Do your research and take the time to consider it thoroughly.
  • Sign up for the National Do Not Call List (NDCL) to remove your number from telemarketing lists. This will prevent the majority of telemarketing phone calls.

When taken in by a scammer, many seniors are embarrassed to let friends or family members know. But if people are not made aware of a scam, more seniors become victims. Remember that you are not alone. If you suspect you have been a victim of a scam or scheme, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to report online or call 1-888-495-8501.

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