Fraud. It includes a lot of faking. Fake companies and employees. Fake messages or emails. Fake fines or balances. All of that faking can amount to real problems. Financial fraud can result in lost money, added stress, and more embarrassment than most would like to admit.
Sure, you think you’d never fall for a fraud scam. But, like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, these schemes can be tricky to spot until the damage is done. Fraud is a particularly big problem for older generations, especially in Niagara. Scammers target seniors because they have money in the bank, good credit, and tend to be more trusting or polite. As a result, many seniors are being robbed of their savings.
How the Wolf Works
If you’re a member of an older generation, or love someone who is, it’s important to know that the wolf may wear many different sheep outfits to trick you. The list of fraud scams is as long as your imagination. Common fraud schemes that target seniors include:
Scammers pretend to be grandchildren or other relatives in an emergency and in need of financial help. They may pretend to be police officers, lawyers, or doctors calling on your loved one’s behalf. They typically request wire transfers for large sums of money.
Scammers work to gain your trust and convince you to enter a virtual relationship online, by mail, or by phone. Then they ask for money for travel, family or medical emergencies, or business ventures.
Scammers impersonate legitimate companies, lotteries, or charities. They may claim that you have won a prize and they can deliver it for a fee. Or they may pressure you to donate to a charity that doesn’t exist.
Scammers claim to be employed by the Canada Revenue Agency or another government branch. They may tell you that you have committed a crime or have an unpaid balance. They often threaten you with fines or arrest and request payment via money service businesses, prepaid cards, or electronic currencies.
Scammers claim to work for a reputable company and try to convince you that your home (e.g., your air ducts, furnace, chimney) needs repairs. Then they charge you in advance for services that they never provide or take your personal information and use it to defraud you.
Uncover the wolf
You have to look closely to uncover the wolf before it eats your sheep. Spotting the signs of a scam and stopping all communication is one way for everyone to protect themselves from fraud. The Niagara Regional Police and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offer these tips to stay safe from fraud, especially if you’re older:
- Stay calm and resist pressure to act quickly. Refuse to engage with anyone who comes to your door selling things or collecting for charities.
- Protect your personal information. Don’t give out your Social Insurance Number, credit card, banking, or other information unless it’s to a trusted source. Get a second opinion if you aren’t sure.
- Do a bit of digging. Look into companies, employees, or offers to be sure they’re real, and ask for agreements in writing.
- Protect your devices. Use anti-virus software. And when in doubt, don’t click, download, or visit content that looks fishy.
- Use caution with public wi-fi. You should only use public wi-fi if you know it's secure. If you are using public wi-fi, don’t log in to any site that contains sensitive information about you - such as your banking details.
- Create unique passwords. If you utilize the same passwords between sites it only takes the compromise of that single password to access all your accounts. If you suspect an account has been breached change your password immediately.
- Protect yourself. Know the signs of scams or abuse. Talk to your lawyer regarding any legal questions about protecting your assets. Also, stay involved with friends, family, or communities – isolation makes it easier for scammers to take advantage of you.
Talk about the wolf
What happens if the wolf has already eaten your sheep? Sound the alarm. Report the fraud by talking to the police, your financial institution, and other appropriate agencies. Seek help. Recover what you can. And get personalized tips on how to stay safe in the future.
It’s also important to talk about what happened with your loved ones or circle of support. That may be easier said than done, though. Fraud is very stressful and can come with a hefty dose of shame. But hiding what happened because you’re embarrassed that you were tricked, or you’re stressed about the lost money, only makes the effects of fraud worse.
What if you suspect your loved one could be a victim of fraud? Similar advice applies here: talk about it. Explain that people fall prey to fakers and fraudsters every day. In 2020, Canadians lost more than $106 million to scams. So if your loved one is a victim of fraud, they aren’t alone – and they shouldn’t isolate themselves. Report any fraud and offer to work together to right any wrongs and protect them in the future.
When it comes to dealing with fraud, there is a real need to work together. Reaching out to your financial institution is a great step in that direction. Your Financial Advisor can check if your accounts or investments have been compromised or reset your passwords and accounts if appropriate. They can also direct you to agencies, organizations, and information that can help you protect yourself. Together, we can stay safe.