According to the Canadian Department of Justice, approximately 10% of Canadian seniors are victims of consumer fraud each year. In recent times, we’ve witnessed a surge in online scams, with elderly people being particularly vulnerable.
The sad reality is that scammers are extremely creative and there is no shortage in the kinds of scams we can fall prey to. Here are just a few to watch out for:
- CEO scams: Scammers impersonate high-ranking executives and request immediate wire transfers for seemingly urgent business matters.
- Health and medical scams: Fraudsters may offer fake medical treatments or miracle cures, preying on seniors’ health concerns.
- Phishing and smishing scams: These involve fraudulent emails (phishing) or text messages (smishing) designed to trick individuals into revealing personal information or clicking on malicious links.
- Tax scams: Scammers pose as tax authorities, threatening legal action or demanding immediate payment for alleged tax debts.
- Door-to-door scams: Con artists may visit seniors’ homes, posing as service providers or contractors, and then overcharge or provide subpar services.
- Emergency scams: Fraudsters pretend to be distressed family members, claiming they need urgent financial assistance for accidents or legal troubles.
- Purchase of merchandise scams: Seniors are targeted with fake offers for products or services, and their payments often lead to disappointment.
- Canada Border Services Agency scams: Scammers impersonate CBSA officials, threatening deportation or fines if immediate payments aren’t made.
- Pet scams: Seniors looking for companionship are targeted with fake pet adoption ads, leading to financial losses.
The good news is, with a little vigilance and common sense, these scams can be avoided. Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Do verify the source: Always verify whether a phone call, email or text message is legitimate. If in doubt, contact the company directly using its official contact information.
- Do question urgency: Be cautious when someone demands immediate action or payment. Scammers often use pressure tactics to manipulate victims.
- Do check email addresses: Examine the sender’s email address closely. Legitimate organizations use official domains (for instance, pbfinancial.com), not generic, misspelled or otherwise suspicious addresses.
- Do educate and communicate: Discuss scams and warning signs with family members. Encourage open communication so everyone feels comfortable reporting any suspicious activity.
- Don’t answer unknown calls: Let unrecognized calls go to voicemail. Legitimate callers will leave messages if necessary.
- Don’t click on links: Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or messages, even if they appear legitimate. Instead, visit the official website separately.
- Don’t share personal information: Never provide personal or financial information to unsolicited callers or via email or text messages.
- Don’t rush into making payments: Resist the urge to make hasty payments, especially via gift cards or Bitcoin machines. Verify the request’s legitimacy first.
In addition to these tips, it’s important to contact the relevant authorities, agencies or financial institutions if you believe you’ve been targeted or victimized by a scam. Never feel embarrassed or ashamed — it’s essential to report these incidents to potentially block or reverse a financial transaction and to help prevent further fraudulent activities and protect others from falling into the same traps.
You can learn more about how to prevent scams by downloading this PDF from the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. And, of course, reach out to us anytime — we’re always happy to help.