You worked hard for years to enjoy your retirement, so it can be devastating to hear about scammers who will take advantage of people and their money. Some of these scams and underhanded dealings are directed toward seniors. The Canada Safety Council reports that con artists tend to believe seniors have good credit, and scammers hope the seniors will not report the crime out of embarrassment or that they will make unreliable witnesses.
Here are some precautions you can take to protect your finances:
Watch Out for Scams
There are a wide variety of scams that seek to take advantage of trusting individuals. An extremely common scam that targets especially older adults, is the ‘Grandma/Grandpa Scam. The intended victim receives a phone call from a grandchild claiming there has been some sort of an emergency and they need money wired immediately or they will suffer consequences. Some examples may be, being detained in a foreign prison, an unexpected medical expense, or an accident. The scammer will be extremely vague on details and insist on immediate payment.
Unfortunately, another well-known scam targeting the aging is the ‘CRA Scam’. This scam targets victims in two ways, usually by telephone or mail. A person may receive a call from someone posing as an employee of the Canada Revenue Agency letting them know that they owe back taxes and will face jail time if they are not paid quickly. Similarly, a person may get a fictitious notice in the mail letting them know they are to receive some sort of monetary benefit if they visit a website and enter in personal information like a bank account number or social insurance number.
In addition to these scams, The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre also highlights the 'Rental Scam' where rental ads are posted at a low price for a quick sale. Victims are asked to send the first and last months' rent, and the scammer promises to mail the keys. Unfortunately, the scammer never sends the keys.
Another common scam is the 'Traffic Violation Scam'. The victim receives an email from an official-looking address that claims he or she committed a traffic violation and must pay immediately. The victims are directed to click a link to make the payment which is illegitimate and shares your information with the scammers.
The FDIC Consumer News and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre suggest watching out for these scam warning signs:
- Calls or emails that request large amounts of money for goods or services you have not received yet (or didn't even order).
- Unsolicited messages offering you employment.
- Calls that ask for bank account information. If the caller claims to be from your bank and you suspect that it could be true, say you will call back. Then, look up your bank's phone number and dial that number. Explain what happened, and ask if they placed a call to you.
- Calls or emails that request you to forward money.
- Offers that seem too good to be true.
- Spelling and grammatical errors in emails.
To be safe, never wire money to people you do not know, and resist the pressure to make a financial decision quickly, particularly as a result of an unexpected phone call. Don't give your credit card or banking information in response to such a call, text, or email.
Stay Diligent with Your Friends and Family
While the topic may be uncomfortable to think about, it is possible a family member may try to take advantage of your financial situation. According to statistics, 90 percent of elder abuse, which includes financial exploitation, is committed by the senior’s family.
Common tactics include depleting a joint checking account, promising but not delivering care in exchange for money or property, outright theft, and other forms of abuse, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation, and neglect of basic care needs.
In Canada, up to 10 percent of older adults experience elder abuse.
What to Do
The Canada Safety Council recommends the following practices to protect your finances:
- Review credit card and bank statements on a regular basis.
- Shred receipts and bank statements.
- Have pension payments and tax refunds deposited directly into your bank account.
- Never share personal information over the phone or the internet. Don't give your bank passwords or personal identification numbers to anyone.
- Choose a power of attorney who does not need money. You can also appoint two people and require both signatures on transactions.
- If you feel like you are being taken advantage of or that a friend or family member is attempting to gain control of your finances, report it to a public trustee.
- Do not make hasty financial decisions after being pressured by a salesperson or family member.
- And finally, trust your instincts.
By being aware of these potential situations that could lead to a scam, you can not only protect yourself but help avoid someone else becoming a victim.