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Scams to Know About For Seniors' Month

Written by Kelley Keehn

Friday, June 28th, 2019


June is Seniors' Month. If you're a senior or know one, here's a list of top scams targeting this group.

Seniors are more tech savvy than ever, but fraudsters are targeting them by smart phone, email and social media in growing numbers. And they keep giving old scams new twists.

Here's some helpful information from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) about the top scams targeted to seniors. (Data is from 2018.)

1. Romance Scam

315 reports, 223 victims, $9,096,390.31 dollars lost

Romance scams tug at the heart and often start on social media. Be careful what you post and when a "friend" that you don't know is wanting to connect with you in person or online, especially if you've had a spouse pass away recently. It's easy for a fraudster halfway around the world to learn that information with a few clicks.

Then they get to know you over months or years, building a trusted relationship knowing you're now a widow/widower and likely lonely. At first, they may ask for a small amount of money for an overdue bill they're dealing with or a flight to come and visit you. Then, the financial requests escalate.

If this is happening to you, reach out to a friend or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and be brave enough to share your story.

2. Prize Scam

1,023 reports, 271 victims, $3,270,419.49 dollars lost

Seniors are often targeted with this scam over the phone, but it's growing through social media, mail and email.

You're told you've won a large prize and all you have to do is pay an upfront fee, taxes or legal costs to collect it. The offer could be a car, cash or any other enticement. Don't fall prey to these offers because the winnings are never received.

3. Investment Scam

62 reports, 51 victims, $2,683,656.29 dollars lost

Investment scams vary greatly from cryptocurrencies, to real estate and fake investment accounts. They're often promoted by people you trust, like a friend, co-worker or someone from your community.

Before you potentially put thousands of dollars in the hands of a thief, contact a Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified Financial Planner or lawyer for an independent review of the offer. Just be sure to source your own professional. Don't use the "pro" the promoter is referring you to. They could be in on the scam.

4. Job Scam

115 reports, 27 victims, $2,190,376.40 dollars lost

Job scams are often promoted on social media sites. They may look like legitimate advertisements for work-at-home positions or can even be an email from what looks like a reputable company. The way you know it's a scam is if you're asked for any money for the opportunity involved.

5. Merchandise Scam

315 reports, 211 victims, $1,523,014.92 dollars lost

You know that designer coat you've been wanting that costs $1,200 in stores but you found it online for $600? It could be a counterfeit.

The merchandise scam can also take other forms, like tricking you into buying things that never arrive. The fraudsters may encourage you to send money in ways that are untraceable, such as wiring the funds or using gift cards. Make sure you always use your credit card to make payments online, but buyer beware: credit card terms and conditions may not cover consumers if the buyer knowingly buys a counterfeit item and the goods were delivered.

If the merchant you're thinking of buying from doesn't accept a major credit card, that could be your first red flag. If you do pay them with a gift card, e-transfer or wire the funds, you may never see your money again, or the product or service offered. And you'd have no way to recoup your investment.

More Common than the Numbers Suggest

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than 5% of mass marketing fraud is ever reported. Please help the elders in your life to spot the fraudsters and, if you or a loved one have been a victim, report it to the CAFC.

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