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March is Fraud Prevention Month

We hear about it far too often – people being targeted by thieves who use tricks to steal items, identities, or hard-earned savings.

Sadly, while everyone is susceptible to widespread scams, seniors are particularly vulnerable and the ruthlessness of some fraudsters can leave them fearful, embarrassed, or worse – financially devastated.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), scams are up considerably this year, with over 6,600 frauds reported as of January 31, 2023.

A recent RCMP news release explains the various ‘Grandparent Scams,’ and urges Canadians to warn and educate seniors in their lives, as well as encouraging them to report any suspicious calls they may receive.

Some of the scams targeting seniors include:
Distraction Scam: Fraudsters in a retail location observe a senior’s PIN number during a transaction then follow them, looking for an opportunity to distract so they can obtain the bank or credit card. In some instance they offer to help load groceries, ask for an unusual favour, or point out pressing issue they can help with (e.g., a problem with the senior’s vehicle), then steal the card while the individual is distracted.
Grandparent Scam (Family / friend imposter): Scammer calls a senior pretending to be a grandchild or other family member, or may also pose as a lawyer or law enforcement officer. Fraudster claims a family member was involved in an emergency situation and requires the financial aid of the senior to cover alleged bail, legal fees, fines or other bills.

Government Impersonation Scams: Fraudsters call posing as government representative and suggest the victim owes the government money – may threaten to cut off CPP or Old Age Security benefits. Fraudster may demand specific forms of payment, such as a prepaid debit card, cash, or wire transfer.
Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Scammers call an older adult and tell them they’ve won a lottery or prize of some sort. To claim their winnings, the senior must send money, cash, or gift cards to cover supposed taxes and processing fees.

The bottom line is, we all need to approach every new encounter with a healthy degree of skepticism. Like the old saying goes … ‘If something seems too good to be true – it probably is.’

*If you or someone you know falls victim to a scam, even if you did not lose funds or personal property, it is important to contact your local police service to report the crime and also to report it to the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501 or online on the Fraud Reporting System (FRS).