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Sadly, many seniors are the targets of fraud and scams. You may not be able to recover funds lost, so the best defense is to learn about common types of scams and fraud and avoid becoming a victim.
Scammers may try to steal your identity, access your bank accounts, or run up debts in your name. They may ask for money outright, as in charity or tax scams, or pretend to be a family member who needs cash right away. Here are some resources to help you identify and avoid scams and protect your finances.
- The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre publishes the latest scams, fraud warnings, and samples of common frauds and scams
- The RCMP warns about the latest frauds and scams
- The Better Business Bureau and partners compile a list of the top 10 scams
Learning about common types of scams and fraud can help protect you. Here are some common scams that target older people.
- Grandparent scams (also called grandchild scams) usually involve a phone call from someone who pretends to be your grandchild, claims to be in trouble and asks for help. If you get a call like this, be prepared. The scammer may know your grandchild’s name and what your grandchild calls you. The scammer may try to convince you that your grandchild was in a car accident or has been arrested. You may be asked to wire money right away, and not to tell anyone. If you receive a call like this, don’t wire the money or give the caller any further information. Hang up and call your grandchild, or another family member, to find out what’s really going on.
- Email scams generally involve receiving an email advertising a product for sale or free items. Try not to open any unsolicited emails and don’t respond to any potential email scams. Any purchases made online should be done through a secure website.
The same type of scam can “pop up” when browsing some webpages. The pop up window may block the view of the page you are trying to look at and advertise a great deal or free product. Don’t click on the links provided.
- Money transfer scams might start by someone sending you an email or a message over social media (like Facebook). The person may try and become friends with you over a short period of time, or they may claim that they are someone important, like a lawyer. They might tell you a story you sympathize with or they might tell you that by sending a small sum of money, you’ll receive a large amount in return. Never respond to unsolicited emails, not even to say “no”, and never send your personal banking information or credit card number to anyone.
- Service scams can seem legitimate. Someone might call and claim to be from your bank, your city office, your utility company, or even someone from the company where you bought an electronic device (like a computer). Unless you are certain the individual is who they say they are do not give out any personal information to upgrade services, or accept virtual repairs on your electronic devices.
- Charity scams are common because many older people donate to charities. Unfortunately, because many legitimate organizations and scammers ask for donations in person, over the phone, by mail or via email, it can be hard to tell the difference. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t feel pressured to make a donation. If you’re unsure or feel uncomfortable, just say, “No thanks, I’m not interested.” A legitimate organization will respect your wishes.
- Be assertive. Ask a lot of questions.
- Never send cash and don’t give your personal information, social insurance number, credit card, or banking information to a stranger.
- If you want to support a charity, consider planned giving. You can decide how much you can afford to give, and contact the organization directly to set up a monthly or one-time donation. You can tell solicitors that you already have your donations in place.
- Not all non-profit organizations are registered charities. If you donate to an organization that is not a registered charity, you won’t get a receipt for income tax purposes.
What to Do
Report any scams or suspected scams to your local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll-free at 1-888 495-8501 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did You Know? Scams, fraud, and identity theft often take place on the internet or through email. Make internet safety a personal priority and Get Cyber Safe.