Financial abuse of elders and seniors is a very common problem. Senior fraud has been called the crime of the 21st century. Elderly people are more vulnerable to financial crimes, as their unfamiliarity with technology and declining cognition make it easier for scammers to exploit them. In addition, seniors are generally thought of as having significant savings or assets, such as homes, cars and jewelry, making them targets for exploitation. 

Scams usually go unreported and are challenging to prosecute because tracing scammers through the internet is often impossible. Financial abuse is tragic and often has detrimental consequences for seniors.

Don’t be a victim; educate yourself on fraud to ensure you or a loved one does not fall victim to any of these common scams. 

Scams and fraud targeted at seniors

The grandparent scam

Scammers will often use emotional manipulation to exploit seniors. Commonly, scammers will call seniors posing as a loved one, often a grandchild, explaining that they have been hurt, arrested, or robbed. They will then ask for immediate transfer of funds either by wire transfer or gift card to help with their “situation.” 

To sound more convincing, the scammer will often sound very panicked, claiming they are in a foreign country or a hospital. Be very careful about what information the individual has: scammers commonly pull information from social media to sound like they are the person’s grandchild. 

Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to this scam:

  • Hang up and call the loved one or family member on their personal phone number; the actual individual will often pick up, confirming there is no emergency.
  • Be suspicious if the person asks for money or provides detailed instructions on where to send funds.
  • Usually, scammers call late at night, to try to confuse the victim. Be aware of late-night calls. 
  • Most of the time, scammers do not know the name of a grandchild, so they will attempt to get the victim to volunteer the information. If the person says, “it’s me grandma/grandpa,” never respond with a name. Make the person say the name. 
  • Scammers also usually insist that the grandparent keeps their situation secret, saying something like, “don’t tell mom, she would kill me if she found out. I need help ASAP.” 

Postal scams

Postal scams are very common in Canada. These scams are almost always conducted via email. Usually, a mark will receive an email saying “You have (1) package waiting” or “delivery suspended – action required” and ask you to “confirm your details.” 

These emails always contain a link to a website to fill in personal details such as name, phone number, address and postal code. The scammer will use this information to exploit you.

Sometimes, these emails can look very legitimate, as scammers use advanced technology to replicate legitimate emails. These types of fraudulent emails are called “phishing emails.”

Here are things to watch out for with postal emails:

  • Always check the address from which the email comes; fraudulent email addresses can appear legitimate but cannot replicate the exact domain of a company. For example, if the email is from Canada Post, be wary of emails from anyone besides @canadapost-postescanada.ca or for UPS @ups.com
  • Beware of emails that have a high sense of urgency. Scammers usually use urgency to pressure people to act. Beware of claims such as “URGENT – act now” and “final delivery notice.”
  • If you didn’t order a package, be extra suspicious of emails indicating you have a delivery waiting.

senior woman becomes victim of a scam

False charity scams

False charity scams exploit people’s kindness and generosity for their benefit. Fake charities often use recent tragedies to tug at people’s heartstrings. Scammers will collect money by phone, letter, online or door-to-door.

These “charities” can often appear very legitimate and will have professional branding and convincing pleas for funds. Scammers often attempt to make people feel guilty and pressure them into donating. 

How to spot a fake charity:

  • The supposed charity will refuse to offer details such as a tax registration number.
  • They also may be unable to answer questions about how they use the funds.

If you want to donate money in Canada, visit the Canada Revenue Agency’s list of charities to ensure an organization is legitimate. 

Lottery scams

Few frauds are as common as the lottery or trip scam, sometimes called the pigeon drop scam. Here, a perpetrator will contact or email someone, telling them they have won a sum of money or a free trip. They will then ask for a sum of money to “claim” or “unlock” or pay fake taxes for the prize. 

If you are contacted about a prize but have not entered a competition, ignore it. Additionally, never provide personal information or finances; legitimately won prizes never require payment upon claim. 

Door to door sale scam

Sometimes, scammers will knock on your door selling a product or service. These people will ask for payment up front and promise work or products to be delivered; however, they never return, or the products never arrive. 

These are the most common door-to-door scams:

  • Sales scam: Someone will come to your door selling a product and promise that it will be delivered at a future date. Always be wary of door-to-door salespeople and always demand a receipt, tracking number, and terms of sale.
  • Repairs scam: Someone will visit your home and offer you a free home inspection. They will then lie and say you have a serious problem such as electrical issues, plumbing problems or a leaky roof. The person will offer you a very good deal, however, demand payment up front. After they receive payment the person will never return. 

How to protect yourself against scams

The best way to protect yourself against scams is to be skeptical. If something feels like a scam or phishing, it likely is. Always trust your intuition. Legitimate companies rarely pressure customers into handing over money quickly; if you feel pressured, take a minute to evaluate. If an offer or product is legitimate, it can be revisited.

Never volunteer personal information. Scammers use subliminal tricks to steal information. If someone is truly who they say they are, they will not need your information. Finally, don’t hesitate to hang up or step back and call someone for help. Call the company, family or friends if you still aren’t sure. When it comes to fraud, safe is always better than sorry.

At Lynn Valley Care Centre we take these issues for your loved ones very seriously, and we take precautions to protect our guests. If you have any concerns about your loved ones please contact us today.