Aging: Seeing through frauds and scams

  • Mar. 9, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Many seniors get scammed every year; yet, the exact statistics are not available. This is because victims seldom report scams, either because they do not want their family or friends to know that they have been scammed or because of lack of awareness about the resources available to them.

For those scammers scheming to cheat people of their money, seniors appear as potentially easy victims, for various reasons. Older individuals are generally religious, and they are honest, trusting, helpful, and generous.

Scammers try to hunt down seniors who are isolated and lonely. They tend to be great story tellers with several convincing stories up their sleeve. The scammer could pretend to be a distant grandchild, calling you for an urgent monetary help, because he or she is stranded somewhere and has been robbed and needs money to get home. He or she might ask you to send some money to their account.

The recent economic downturn has impacted the success of the money request strategy.

Scammers were quick to realize this and have come up with the more attractive offer strategy, which, apparently has been succeeding well.

These days a scammer would call you and say that you have been randomly selected for a prize or a cruise or a trip, and then asks you to pay some money upfront to receive the prize. The offer is time-bound, and has to be accepted immediately. They might ask for your account number or other banking details.

Regardless of the story, some common themes exist – there is some money transaction involved, and it is always urgent.

Recently romance scams targeting single seniors have become wildly rampant. The source could be an online dating site, chat room, or matchmaking site. The victims are usually unmarried or widowed seniors, looking for friendship.

What most Canadians probably don’t know — is that “romance fraud” is the number one scam in this country, surpassing identity theft, prize pitches and other telemarketing schemes. It cost victims $16.9 million in 2015, according to Daniel Williams, senior fraud specialist at CAFC.

The cost to the senior who has been scammed is much more than money; these scams cause a lot of grief, humiliation, and shame to the victims.

Here are some strategies to help you detect a scam and avoid getting scammed.

l If someone is calling you or emailing you with an offer of a valuable prize in return for a low-cost purchase, a free vacation, or international bonds, do not be afraid to hang up, or delete the email or close your Internet connection.

l If someone is trying to sell you an amazing product/service for a cheap price, request further documentation regarding the product or service and about the company so you can verify its validity.

l Don’t disclose personal information about your finances, bank accounts, credit cards, social insurance and driver’s license numbers to any business that can’t prove it is legitimate.

l Shred unwanted personal information such as bank statements, credit card bills, unwanted receipts, cheques, pre-approved credit applications and old tax returns.

l Check your credit report every year and report problems immediately.

l If a scam artist contacts you, or if you’ve been defrauded, report it. Your reports are vital to the anti-fraud efforts of law enforcement agencies.

Fraudulent or suspicious activity can be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, through its website at, or by telephone at 1-888-495-8501. Be informed and take the necessary action to beat the scammers in their game.

Padmaja Genesh, who holds a bachelor degree in medicine and surgery as well as a bachelor degree in Gerontology, has spent several years teaching and working with health care agencies. Please send your comments to

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