Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Estates & Wills & Trusts

Fraud against seniors – can it happen in your family?

By Suzana Popovic-Montag

By now, many of you have had a phone call from the “Canada Revenue Agency” informing you that you owe money, or that a lawsuit or collection process has begun. It’s a scam that’s obvious to most of us – and we hang up and don’t give it a second thought.

But in a small minority of cases, the scam works, and Canadians have lost thousands of dollars in the process. It’s not just seniors – many middle-aged adults have been victims as well.

Which brings me to a key point: if brazen scams can work on those in the prime of life, how vulnerable are seniors who may be suffering from both physical and mental frailties?

Know what’s out there

The Canadian government’s Anti-Fraud Centre has a website that outlines four common fraud schemes that target seniors and steps to protect them. Here’s an overview of the four types:

  • Prize winner: Canadian seniors receive notice (mail, phone, or email) that they’re the winner of a large lottery or sweepstake. A request is made for money to cover costs in securing the winnings.
  • Family emergencies: Seniors receive a call from someone claiming to be a family member or a close friend. They describe an urgent situation that requires money.
  • Service scams: There are many types, but one of the most common involves a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Windows who has detected a virus in the victim’s computer, with money needed to make repairs.
  • Friendship/romance: Scammers can spend months grooming a victim into a friend or romantic relationship, either online or in person. Eventually, a request for money is made.

The bottom line is that scams come in many forms. While seniors can most definitely learn to protect themselves, this becomes much harder if there’s been a decline in mental abilities. The best way to protect elderly parents or other seniors is to check in with them every few days to probe for any unusual actions. You can also ask the individual to follow one simple rule: check with me first (or with another son or daughter) before committing money to anything. It’s a great delay tactic that will often stop a scam in its tracks.

Savvy senior? Take the quiz

This short 10-question quiz is designed to test a senior’s ability to spot online scams, but it’s a great test for anyone to take. See how you do, then try it out with a senior in your life.

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