Color & Control:

It’s a jungle out there…

How to reduce the risks for vulnerable adults…

When it comes to preying on people it seems there are more scammers, fraudsters, and hackers, than ever before… especially when we put modern day technology into the mix. 

Scammers usually prefer to target people who they perceive as more isolated or vulnerable using phone calls, emails and home solicitation. As family caregivers and seniors it’s important to be mindful of potential risks and find ways to better protect ourselves:. 

Here are a few of the most common cons I’ve heard of recently:

The “Grandparent scam.”
A scammer posing as a police officer will contact a grandma or grandpa to explain their grandchild has caused a traffic accident, has been charged, and is being held in jail until bail is posted. 

With their grandchild’s best interest at heart, a senior can be quick to respond and provide bail money (which could be in the thousands of dollars). The funds could be asked for via direct transfer or using credit card number. I have heard of one scammer who brazenly came directly to a senior’s front door to collect an envelope of cash. 

The “Lovelorn scam.”
Lonely seniors looking for a new relationship may create profiles on on-line dating sites. These sites can be magnets for fraudsters who will respond
with heartfelt messages. The communication may start innocently enough so as trust is built. Soon enough, the fraudster may profess his/her love but, even before they meet, will explain he/she has unexpected financial issue. Perhaps there is a medical emergency, costly home repairs, or travel expenses to cover. The senior may give money to help at first, and either never hear from them again or be begged to help with financial problems that may increase in severity (require more money).

The “Lottery scam.”
A senior is contacted by someone congratulating his/her on winning a large lottery prize. This can be exciting news, but prior to collecting this prize, however, seniors could be asked to pay some sort of processing fee before they receive their jackpot cheque in the mail or into their bank account. Obviously, the winnings never materialize.

The “Home repair scam.”
Any home can fall into a state of disrepair, but a senior may find it increasingly difficult to maintain his/her property. A purported “contractor” in the neighbourhood will reach out to a senior by telephone or by direct door-to-door visits. They are often posing as sales people for reputable local companies. Seniors may be asked to supply a security deposit prior to the work being started,
or as just simple demolition work is done, but, the
work paid for, and the proper “contractor” to finish the work, will never arrive. 

The ”Distraction scam.”
This can take many forms, but, essentially, these involve two or more scammers working together. One will divert the senior’s attention while the other steals. As an example, I watched a news story recently where a reporter was interviewing a mid ‘60’s shopper. 

The woman explained that she had been in the grocery store when a pleasant young man standing behind her in the checkout line struck up a conversation. He offered to help her take her bags out to her car. The woman, quick to accept, found herself the victim—while the good Samaritan was loading her bags, his accomplice stole her wallet. Shortly thereafter, this woman found her bank account completely drained. Apparently, the first man had watched her pay for her groceries with her bank card at the checkout and memorized her PIN number. 

Ways to reduce risks
1) Registering for call display. This service may add a few more dollars to a monthly phone bill, but it can be very worthwhile. If a caller’s name and/or phone number is unfamiliar (or if this information is “blocked” or appears as “Unknown name, unknown number”), just ignore the call.

2) Educating. Family caregivers should remind parents not to disclose any personal information with others without checking. Information to keep confidential will include birth dates, home addresses, credit card information, passwords, and/or health card numbers.

3) Buying a shredder. I recommend a heavy-duty model (that can shred multiple documents simultaneously or even unwanted/cancelled credit cards). To further reduce risks, tear off address labels from received mail or packages and destroy these as well.   

4) Rely on trusted sources. Visit the government of Canada’s “scams and fraud page” at where you can learn the best ways to be scam smarter. 

Learn how to identify Service Canada or 1-800-0-CANADA fake calls, texts, emails and which CRA messages are genuine. 

Rick Lauber is a freelance writer. He has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide.


Recognizing a scam

If the caller is forceful or demanding. By being insistent, an experienced fraudster if often better able to convince or scare a person into compliance.

If a time limit to respond is imposed. A short deadline causes panic and gives the senior much less time to consider the source, do some research, and/or discuss it with trusted family members. 

Suspicious links in an e-mail. If a received e-mail message contains a suspicious link (to click on and open …), discard it immediately. Fraudulent e-mails may also include familiar company logos that are forged with fake bills etc. By contacting the company directly, an individual (or family caregiver) can verify amounts owing and requests for updated information. 

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