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7 Ways Seniors Can Be Protected From Scam Artists

It’s a sad fact of life that there are people in this world who are more than happy to scam money out of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately, seniors are often targeted relentlessly by these fraudsters, either over the phone, at the door, or online.

According to a recent study conducted by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), 75 percent of seniors reported experiencing misleading or aggressive sales practices. It’s especially upsetting when a senior falls prey to a scam as it damages their trust, dignity, and sense of security.

Why are seniors targeted for fraud?

According to the Better Business Bureau, the top schemes that seniors are targeted for involve travel getaways, home improvement or repair, romance or companionship offers, and investment scams.  

Our elderly population is at risk of being defrauded by scammers because they are often:

  • Perceived to have more financial assets than younger people
  • At home more often, and more easily accessible by phone or at the door
  • More trusting than other segments of the population
  • Single, divorced, widowed, or otherwise without a companion to discuss financial decisions with
  • Lonely, and realize too late that the “nice polite person on the phone” was trying to surreptitiously get something from them
  • Easily confused or suffering from a dementia condition
  • Lacking a trusted family member or friend to look after their finances

Fortunately, there are several ways you can help the elderly loved one in your life from becoming a victim.

7 ways seniors can be protected from scam artists 

The goal to protect seniors has much to do with educating them about what to look out for in potential scams. Here are the red flags we should look for:

  1. Never give out personal information such as their credit card number, personal banking information, or health card number to anyone over the phone, through email, or in posted letter mail
  2. Do not do business with any salesperson who cannot provide written identification about their company, including the company’s name, address, and telephone, or if they do not have company photo identification
  3. Never hire someone who shows up at the door offering to do any kind of home repair 
  4. Ensure they do not give money or personal information to anyone calling from a “government or police agency”, including Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Request a certified letter on official letterhead instead
  5. Don’t make on-the-spot buying decisions, or allow them to fall victim to pressure tactics
  6. Avoid investment offers that offer a high reward at little risk, as legitimate investment firms always disclose that there is risk involved with any investment activity
  7. Do not respond to unsolicited emails or phone texts that asks them to click a link to “fix” a technical, financial, or other problem 

In all of these cases, ensure that your elderly loved one knows they can call you for help if they feel something isn’t right. 

How you can help reduce the risk of elder fraud

Fraud against older adults is a serious problem that affects thousands of Canadians every year. Here are some ways you can get involved to reduce the risk of them falling victim to scams:

  • Add their number to Canada’s Do Not Call List to reduce the amount of telemarketing they receive
  • Become more involved with their financial decision making, especially if they need help managing their finances
  • Ask about phone calls they’ve received from new people to stay alert about scam artists potentially creating relationships with the senior
  • Watch their mailbox for direct marketing scams, and remove them from any unnecessary mailing lists
  • Monitor or keep an eye on familial relationships with someone who may substance abuse issues or financial difficulties that might tempt them to prey on an elderly family member
  • Install a camera at the front door, or place a “No Soliciting” sign where possible door-to-door scammers can see it

Protecting seniors from identity theft

Identity theft has been on the rise in Canada for several years, with seniors among the most victimized group. Once someone has stolen a person’s identity, they can withdraw funds from their bank account, apply for and use credit cards under the victim’s name, apply for loans and mortgages, divert government support payments, use their health insurance for medical treatments, and much more.

The damage can be catastrophic and take years to reverse. In the meantime, your aging loved one might lose everything, leaving them depressed and sorrowful.

Here are several proactive measures you can take to reduce the risk of older adults becoming victims of identity theft:

  • Buy a shredder: Have the elderly person shred all mail that contains personal information such as credit card bills, outdated bank statements, and old financial and tax records. If they’re simply thrown in the garbage, someone could retrieve them and use the information to steal their identity.
  • Peel labels from boxes: When you receive a package from Amazon or another company, peel the label off the box before putting the box in the recycling bin. The label can be torn up and put in the garbage for added security.
  • Guard debit and credit cards: Be wary of salespeople, taxi drivers, wait staff in restaurants, or anyone who requires your parent’s credit card. Tiny devices called skimmers can be used to steal the number and use the card. They can also be used to steal debit card information on ATMs and gas station pumps. To reduce the risk, try to limit the number of credit cards your older adult has, or encourage them to use cash.
  • Safeguard personal information: A bank account can be drained in mere minutes with someone’s social insurance number (SIN), bank account number, and personal information such as a mother’s maiden name. Never give this information out over the telephone or through email. 
  • Don’t let anyone copy your parents’ driver’s license: Driver’s licenses are one of the most common forms of identification used to access bank accounts, personal data, and almost anything else your parents need to protect. It’s never necessary for someone to take a copy of the card, so be sure to keep it safe.
  • Be careful when mailing letters: Avoid leaving mail in your mailbox to be picked up for delivery, as thieves can access cheques and payment slips from unsecured letters to steal identities. Always mail letters and packages at a Canada Post location or secure mailbox.

Ongoing care for seniors in Etobicoke, Mississauga, Brampton, and Toronto

Our team at CareHop understands how much you care about your elderly loved ones. That’s why we do everything we can to protect and celebrate the wonderful people they are while bringing joy and sunshine into their everyday lives. Whether they need around-the-clock or part-time home care, help around the house, or trusted companionship when it’s needed, you can count on your team to always be there for the senior in your life.If you have any questions about our customized personal care services, please reach out to us anytime.

About the Author

Michael Lu is the founder of CareHop, specializing in providing compassionate support for individuals and families touched by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

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