The holidays: A time when people tend to be more giving. Sadly, that also makes the holidays a time when scammers target the more vulnerable to open their wallets and gift their savings away. The elderly, widowers who’ve never handled the finances, those unfamiliar with the internet and cellphones, and those suffering from cognitive challenges are all prime candidates for fraudsters to take advantage of.
Types of holiday scams to watch out for
- Fake charities and disaster relief. One of the main ways fraudsters target the elderly for money is by claiming to be from a charity through phone calls and door-to-door visits. Don’t know 100% who’s asking for money and can’t verify their legitimacy? Don’t hand over a penny!
- The same goes for the fake grandchild scam. Fraudsters will impersonate a family member asking for money to get out of jail, help pay for presents or tuition, or other such believable asks. A senior who’s hard of hearing or hasn’t spoken with their grandchild in a while so therefore doesn’t recognize the voice could easily fall prey to this type of fraud.
- Fraudsters will set up fake merchants that mimic a company seniors are familiar with, funneling all purchases to themselves rather than the unsuspecting senior paying the bills.
- This extends to fake discounts and coupon codes, or free trials offered online. Click on it, and a virus can take hold of the computer, identity and credit card information scammed, and payments sent into the ether for fraudsters to collect.
- Offers that sounds too good to be true. Is that company offering to consolidate all credit card debt for a lower interest? Definitely a red flag and likely a fraudster looking for credit card information, or skimming off the interest.
- A fake call from the CRA is an oldie but goodie for fraudsters, who’ll ask for money in exchange for avoiding legal action. Remember: The CRA never calls to collect, and never threatens arrest.
Ways for seniors to protect themselves from holiday fraudsters
- Have a trusted family member routinely check call logs for unfamiliar phone numbers and scan credit card charges for out-of-the-ordinary charges. This kind of fraudulent activity can often be overlooked by seniors, so it will require trust and open communication! But consider the alternative.
- Add a trusted family member to the senior’s bank account so someone is monitoring large or unusual withdrawals and money transfers.
- Never give out personal, credit card, or bank account information over the phone or in an email. Ever. In doubt? Ask a trusted family member to help you sort out the truth from the fraudsters out there.
- Never click on links in an email you don’t recognize, or even from a friend or family member if the tone sounds off—their account might have been hacked.
- Spread the word: the more seniors are aware of the types of scams out there, the better they can protect themselves by watching out for them.
- Consider placing vulnerable seniors’ phone numbers on Canada’s National Do Not Call List.
Being scammed is a violation and feels awful, which is why seniors tend to keep it to themselves out of embarrassment. Open, honest, and non-judgemental conversations are the best way to prevent fraudsters from taking advantage in the first place!