Learn About Four Scams Currently Targeting Seniors in Canada
Keep your finances safe by learning about preventing scams that target grandparents, including scams asking for money and offering fake prizes.
You may be surprised at how many lies people have come up with to scam money from others.
One example is the grandparent scam. This is specifically targeted at seniors. You may receive a call from someone claiming to be a relative, usually a grandchild. They will say they are having trouble leaving another country, have been in a car crash, or have been arrested.
They will ask for money for travel, medical costs, or bail, and ask you not to tell their parents or other family members “because they don’t want to get in more trouble.”
They might even tell you to call another number to confirm. The person who answers will claim to be a lawyer or police officer, but they are really just an accomplice in the scam.
They will use this phone call to gain your personal information in addition to convincing you to send thousands of dollars through a money wire service.
The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) suggests that if you get a call like this, you should press the caller for details. This is usually the best way to catch someone in a lie.
The CBA also says that fraudsters will start off the call saying something to the effect of “Grandma, do you know who this is?” They do this hoping to get you to tell them your grandchild’s name which they can use.
To beat a scammer in this game, say “No” and ask who is on the line. If it’s not really your grandchild it would become pretty obvious.
You should also contact your relatives to find out where the grandchild in question really is. Even if the caller asked you not to, you need to do this in order to confirm the caller’s identity.
Money Transfer Scams
You may also encounter one of the many money transfer scams. One of the most common is known as the 419 fraud, advance fee fraud, or Nigerian scam. Victims of this scam receive an email, text, letter, or phone call, from someone who says they are from Nigeria or some other faraway country and tell you the story of why they can’t access their fortune in their own land.
They will ask for your help transferring it to Canadian banks, and will offer a generous portion of it to you as thanks.
If you agree, they will start asking for your banking information and/or come up with fees that “need to be paid to get the money” but never actually give you anything.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a good article about these types of scams. Some of their suggestions to protect yourself from them include
- looking up keywords of the email to see if it has been reported as a scam;
- being suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue; and
- not using money order, money wiring, gift cards, or bitcoin to send money to someone you don’t know.
Similarly, you may receive an email or phone call saying you’ve been left a huge inheritance from a long-lost family member. Whoever contacted you will ask for your information to “confirm your identity”, and possibly have you pay taxes and fees up front.
You will not actually receive this “inheritance” and the scammer may use your information to steal your identity.
Scammers Posing as Customers
Money transfer scams may even affect you if you are doing business online with your own website, with a Shopify store, or if you have items on Facebook, Kijiji or Poshmark.
If you receive a check or money order which is greater than the price of an item or service you offer, you should view it with suspicion. This could be a setup. Your “customer” will say it’s an accident and ask for a refund of the extra.
The scammer would be hoping you haven’t tried to cash it yet, because if you did, you would have found out that the check or money order is fake.
The RCMP also warns about prize scams. You could be sent an email saying you won a prize, contest, draw, lottery, or sweepstakes that you did not enter. Then you would be asked for personal and banking information to “confirm your identity” and/or be told you must pay taxes and fees to receive your reward.
Know that this is certainly a scam because you cannot win a lottery or contest you did not enter. You also never have to pay anything before claiming a prize.
Even if the email or caller says something about being legal or government approved, scammers can tell this lie just as easily as any other.
Scammers even sink so low as to impersonate charities.
They may invent a fictional organization, or pretend to be part of a real one. They intend to profit off of people’s generosity. These scams are very effective because fraudsters are able to guilt people into giving them money. They will often use tragic stories featured in the news to sound more believable and tug on people’s heart strings.
The RCMP reminds us that scammers can copy logos and images to make their emails and websites look real, and that all registered charities are listed in the database set up by the Canada Revenu Agency (CRA).
If you suspect you’re being targeted by a charity scam, you don’t have to give them anything, especially not personal or banking information. If you want to donate to the real charity, it may be best to check their legitimacy in the CRA database, find their phone number, email, website, or address, and make the donation through more direct means.
Most of all, remember not to give out personal information like your address or banking information such as a credit card number.
Keep your savings safe and protect yourself from fraud by never, never, never transfering money to someone you don’t know.