Seniors are among the most vulnerable members of society. Unfortunately, they are not only vulnerable to professional fraudsters, but also to their own family members. There are different types to be aware of and different ways to protect you from fraudulent activity.
Types of Fraud
Earlier this year, the Globe and Mail published an article on elderly fraud outlining several different cases from across the country. There was the story of Mabel Fielding, for example, who received not one, but two calls from fraudsters claiming to be her grandchildren. In both cases, the person calling said that they were in trouble and needed immediate financial assistance. It wasn’t until the 88-year old Hanna, Alberta woman reached the bank that she learned it was a scam. Although Fielding didn’t fall victim to the fraudsters, because neither transaction went through, others weren’t as lucky. And of those scammed, many were taken advantage of by their own children.
There have been instances reported where older children borrow money from their parents with little or no intention of ever paying it back. In one case, a son and daughter team borrowed $250,000 from their mother. When their father passed away, the kids refused to pay the money back, saying they thought that it had been a gift.
Issues of joint ownership, where two or more names are on the deed to something have caused problems for the elderly parent. Take, for instance, the woman who put her son’s name on the deed to her house. When he filed for bankruptcy years later, she suffered the consequences too.
Wills, says one lawyer, should be planned without your children around as their presence could influence parents to make uncomfortable decisions.
Why Are Seniors Targets?
What makes seniors more vulnerable than other members of society? Well, for starters, they’re at home for most of the day. Many are isolated and alone, and some have plenty of cash to spare. Plus, many are quick to help, especially when it involves family members.
Here are the three most common ways that fraudsters contact seniors:
- Through cold calls over the phone
- Through family and friends the victim trusts
- Through advertising on TV, online, in newspapers and over the radio
How to Avoid Being The Victim of Fraud
Looking for a few ways to thwart potential fraudsters?
According to 27-year Saskatoon police veteran Brian Trainor’s site, here are a few ways to safeguard your finances:
- Buy a shredder and shred anything with personal info on it
- Never give out personal information over the phone or the Internet
- Never toss anything in the garbage that identifies you
- Read monthly credit card and bank statement looking for fraud
- If you have been called by someone, let a friend know
- Get advice before making large purchases
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre also has a few tips for evading fraudsters. Check them out here.
Think You’ve Been Hit?
If you suspect or are a victim of fraud, report it to the police immediately. Although being victimized can be embarrassing, the steps you take can save someone else from going through something similar.