Scams targeting older adults are on the rise and can present an enormous threat to an older adult’s security, both financially and emotionally. Aging-adult fraud victims may suffer long-lasting trauma that often erodes their sense of trust and well-being, eldercare experts have noted.
Three crimes, in particular, are on the rise, according to the Government of Canada, leading to a combined loss of approximately $40 million from seniors alone. These are romance scams, Mass Marketing Fraud (MMF), and identity theft. Experts detail these three offenses against aging adults.
- Romance Scam. In this scam, criminals adopt a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim, resulting in financial loss and inflicting emotional damage. The National Seniors Council (NSC) reported in 2018 romance scams accounted for $9 million in losses from Canadian seniors. Be wary of any fast-developing relationships or friendships who start asking for money and never hand over personal banking information to anyone online.
- Mass Marketing Fraud (MMF). This scam is defined as fraud committed via mass communication media using the telephone, mail, and the Internet to solicit funds for fake charities or fraudulent investments. Scammers will ask for personal information and use the victim’s responses to manipulate them into a quick sale or to steal financial information. To be safe, never invest, donate, or make purchases over the phone or Internet unless you initiate the exchange yourself or can validate the company’s existence.
- Identity Theft. According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), identify theft occurs when a criminal steals personal information from someone with the intent of impersonating that person to apply for credit cards, take out loans, acquire cell phones, or withdraw bank funds. Often, information is gathered from documents contained in wallets, at home, or in the mail. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) estimated in 2018 that approximately 1,597 seniors were victimized by identity theft, accounting for millions of dollars in losses. The CAFC recommends immediately reporting any instances of identity theft to the police, conducting regular checks of credit reports, and to be wary of unsolicited emails, text messages, telephone calls or mail asking for personal or financial information. Furthermore, shredding documents is preferred over throwing them in the recycling.
All scams should also be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre where victims can also find valuable resources.
Arming yourself with information and helping to protect vulnerable seniors are among the best ways to fight fraud, experts note.