Scams Targeting Seniors: How to Protect Yourself, Your Identity and Valuables

December 4, 2019

Sometimes, people can be real jerks!

This is especially true of scammers who take advantage of other people’s trust and vulnerability.

Unfortunately, seniors/older adults are often the most frequent targets of scams and scammers.

Indeed, there is no lack of scams out there trying to rob seniors of their identity, money, or valuables.

The Tea & Toast team wants you to protect yourself! We hope this blog will help you to do just that.

Types of scams targeting seniors

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there are four types of scams that regularly target seniors:

  • Prize scams—where you learn you’ve “won” a prize (often a lottery), but first you must pay an advance fee or provide financial/personal information
  • Emergency scams—where you receive a call from a person claiming to be a family member, who is often out of the country and “needs” money to be transferred to them
  • Service scams—where someone offers a service, like cleaning your computer free of viruses, in exchange for remote (and secure!) access to your computer
  • Romance scams—where scammers prey on lonely people seeking love and affection, often pretending they have a family medical emergency where they need money, or arranging to meet but suddenly needing money for travel expenses.

You can learn more about these types of scams—and what to do to protect yourself—by clicking here.

Senior man on the phone with credit card in hand
Stay vigilant, stay informed

Service Canada phone scam

Whether or not you’re a senior, you’ve probably received a call from “Service Canada” recently. You know the one: where a recorded voice tells you it’s Service Canada calling (it’s really not), there has been a crime committed using your social insurance number (SIN), and to press “1” to avoid “prosecution.” If you DO press 1, someone will tell you to purchase gift cards or Bitcoin to avoid being charged. According to this article, some people have lost as much as $15,000!

How to protect yourself: DON’T PRESS 1. Simply hang up. Do not engage!

Distraction thefts

Sometimes, the scam happens in person. This past summer, there were about 30 instances reported in Ottawa of seniors being targeted by strangers in parking lots (often at malls). The scammers’ goal is to distract the senior.
One or more suspects will offer some form of assistance to the senior—for example, helping to carry their packages or shopping bags. Then they might tell the victim that they dropped money or point out a possible issue with the victim’s car. When the victim is distracted, the suspects will steal their debit or credit cards, or even tear off their jewelry.

How to protect yourself: Ottawa Police suggest being aware of what’s going on around you in large public areas, to hide your PIN numbers when using debit or credit cards, and to keep your vehicles locked—even if only stepping away for a few seconds.

Municipal drinking water scam

The quality of Canada’s drinking water is in the news a lot lately! Unfortunately, in Ottawa, there are some scammers out there capitalizing on your fear: making door-to-door visits to scare you into buying water filtration or treatment systems.

How to protect yourself: According to the Ottawa Police, City employees do not contact residents to sell products or services. If a person claiming to be a City of Ottawa employee comes to your home, ask them for their ID. And if you are still suspicious, contact 3-1-1.

Stay vigilant, stay informed

The Ottawa Police website has published other common scams targeting not just seniors but people of all ages—and sadly, the list is pretty long.

So what can you do? Stay informed, share news of scams with your loved ones, and trust your gut instinct!

In the meantime, here are some resources to check out, to help protect yourself and those around you:

Stay safe, seniors!

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