It’s an unfortunate reality that older adults are often the target of fraudulent scams. In fact, Canadians over the age of 60 lost approximately $94 million to various scams between 2014-2017. Sadly, this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center estimates that only five percent of fraud cases are ever reported. People may feel ashamed or embarrassed that they ‘fell’ for a scam and are reluctant to report it to the authorities.
Seniors are frequently targeted by scam artists for a variety of reasons; they are often home alone during the day and they may also be struggling with social isolation and loneliness. Scam artists take advantage of these vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that older adults are more likely, “to have a ‘nest egg’, to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists. People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.”
Scam artists have also become more sophisticated over the years and are now using text messages, email, and social media to target people. They even have a new technique to get you to answer the telephone – Caller ID Spoofing. According to the CRTC (the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission of Canada) illegitimate telemarketers or scammers can, “change the information that appears on the Caller ID display to misrepresent themselves and to trick Canadians into answering the call.” Many of us have learned not to answer calls from 1-800 numbers or numbers that come up as ‘unknown’. Scam artists get around this by altering the phone number they are calling from, so it looks like a local call from a neighbor or nearby business. It may even show up on call display as your own telephone number! This is called mirroring and it’s very tempting to answer a call which seems to be coming from your own telephone number. These tactics are in violation of the Canadian Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules; telemarketers are required to accurately identify themselves.
So how can you protect yourself against scams? Awareness is your best defense against scams and the key to prevention. Here is a list of recommendations from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre:
- Be very cautious when it comes to giving personal information over the phone or through text/email messaging. This includes banking information, passwords, health cards and your Social Insurance Number. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of a call or a text, hang up and call the organization in question to verify the caller’s identity. Remember, legitimate telemarketers and businesses have nothing to hide so ask questions! It’s your right to know who you are talking to. Ask for a call back or reference number if you are unsure. The Anti-Fraud Center has a great slogan – Remember, you can Stop Phone Fraud – Just Hang up!
- If something seems too good to be true – it probably is! If the telemarketer offers you something for free but then asks for your credit card, a red flag should go up immediately. Once again, hang up and call the organization to confirm that this is a legitimate request. The same thing goes for any online offers – scam artists use phishing techniques to hook you into clicking on a fake ad. If you click on the link, you’re redirected to a website that looks real but is actually a spoofed website made to look like a legitimate business. Before entering any personal information, do a quick google search to see there are any scams involving this particular website and call the company in question for verification.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call list – this will help reduce the number of telemarketers who contact you. Registration is free. For more information on the DNC list, click here.
- If you think you have been targeted by a scam artist, it’s extremely important that you report it. This is the best way to track scams and collect evidence. You can register a complaint with The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by visiting their website or calling toll free at 1-888-495-8501.
At Victoria Lifeline, we occasionally hear from concerned customers that they have been being targeted by someone claiming to be a representative of Lifeline or a medical alert company. The scam artist then tells them their service will be cut off in 48 hours. In the interest of delivering greater peace of mind to those we serve, here is how you can recognize that you are dealing directly with Victoria Lifeline:
- We do not collect credit card information over the phone for service calls.
- We would never threaten to cancel our service if someone didn’t update their file or provide their credit card information in exchange.
- As a general rule, we do not call to advise of overdue accounts or outstanding balances – we mail statements and or invoices notifying clients directly and request they call us to update their payment preferences.
- We never solicit older adults through the phone book or use telemarketing techniques to sell our service.
- We never share our subscribers’ personal information to third party vendors.
If you ever have any concerns about the legitimacy of a call you received regarding the Lifeline service, you can always push your button or call us to verify that someone from our office called. We are always happy to hear from our clients!
So, when it comes to fraud, remember the three Rs – Recognize, Reject, and Report!