As our population ages, unfortunately so do the fraud schemes that target the elderly. In fact, fraud is the number one crime against the elderly in Canada.
What are the most common schemes targeting seniors?
- Telemarketing fraud: this involves criminals pretending they’re from a legitimate organization trying to get you to disclose personal information or send them money for goods and services;
- Identity theft: if you get a call asking you to verify your credit card number or social insurance number it may well be a scam. Get the agent’s name, agent ID and call the organization back to see if this person exists and whether this was a legitimate request;
- Grandparent scams: a person pretending to be your grandchild calls asking for emergency money to be sent to them right away. They may claim that they are in jail or another country. Hang up and call your grandchild or their parents to see if the grandchild is indeed in trouble;
- Romance scams: this often happens to people who use online dating sites, or these people can even meet you in person. Typically in these situations, they will put up fake profiles and provide you with fake information. After a while, they will ask you to cash a cheque for them or tell you they’re in trouble and need money;
- Charity scams: false fundraisers can contact you through mail, the phone, going to your door or email to ask for a donation. Often the “charity” has a name similar to a known charity. In that situation, don’t give them the money unless you have verified this is a legitimate charity. You can do so by calling the Canada Revenue Agency or check the charity registration number online.
What can I do to prevent myself from becoming a target of fraud?
- Never give out personal information to someone over the phone, at the door or even over the internet, even if they claim to be a government or bank employee. Such information includes:
- Credit card information;
- Bank information, such as debit card or check information;
- Social Insurance Number;
- Personal Identification Number (PIN);
- Passport information.
If you think it’s a legitimate organization, such as a government agency, calling, visiting or e-mailing you, before you give any personal information to the person, get their name and agent ID and call the official number for the government agency that is claiming to call you and verify if this agent exists and whether this request was a legitimate request.
- Banks and credit unions usually do not send e-mail’s to their customers unless the customer requested them.
- If you get a strange email, do not open any links or attachments.
- Never sign a contract or buy anything that involves a contract without taking some time and reading the contract over, and/or consulting with a family member or a lawyer. If you are being pushed into signing a contract, because the offer is “time limited” or “only valid today”, you may want to walk away.
What can I do if I’ve been the target of fraud?
If you have been the victim of fraud, you should call your local police station, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
If you have been targeted by a scheme that involves a significant amount of money and/or having signed a contract for goods or services, you should consult a lawyer and look into the validity of the contract.
What every older Canadian should know about: Fraud and scams
Canadian Senior Fraud Protection Kit