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Don’t Get Scammed!

Don’t Get Scammed!

Scammers awareness

Scams are big business and they’re increasingly targeting seniors, putting them at great risk of losing their assets, their independence and confidence. The lasting trauma of being ripped off can destroy their sense of trust, hope and wellbeing. The shame is overwhelming.

“Seniors lost $177 million in 2023 which was an increase from $136.4 million from 2022,”  says Jim Horncastle, spokesman for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) tells Custodia.com. Overall, Canadians lost a staggering $557 million to scams in 2023. The CAFC identifies 30 different types of fraud, and the overall reported loss for the first three months of this year is $123 million.

From love and financial scams to fake price and home repair fraud, research reports that seniors (60+) are 33% more likely to get conned by fraudsters compared to other age groups. In particular, the emergency grandparent scam is swindling seniors out of millions.

Imagine being home alone and you get a call saying your grandson is in jail! The caller posing as a police officer demands $9,000 cash in bail money, and says not to tell anyone about it.

Grandparent scams target older adults

That very scenario sent Diane Lindsay of Ingersoll, Ont. into a complete panic; she immediately called her husband Ron who was curling at the time, to go and get the money. “She was told that our grandson was in an accident and drugs were found in the car. The caller knew our names, knew we had a grandson, and claimed to let her speak to him,” Ron, 83, tells Custodia.com.  

Guide on don't be get Scammed
Scammers tried to rob Diane and Ron Lindsay out of $9,000 by telling them their grandson was in jail and they needed to post his bail – they didn’t fall for it. – Photo provided by Ron Lindsay

Ron suspected a scam from the start and drove to his daughter’s house where he found his grandson safe and healthy. The fraudsters brazenly called back a few more times, irate and demanding the money; Ron reported the scam attempts to the police and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The Lindsays are lucky – many seniors fall victim to this scam and others. Recently the OPP put out a warning for Canadians to be vigilant after a senior with dementia lost $600,000 through repeated grandparent scams. She couldn’t remember the situation from the day before.

“Do not react to what they say. Tell them you will handle it by calling authorities and hang up,” says Ron. “They’re aggressive and very experienced and have the answers to all your questions.”

Swindled out of $75,000 for roof repairs not needed

Be leery of all high-pressure pressure tactics and unsolicited offers on the phone, online and shady solicitors coming to your door pitching home renovations. “Better you contact businesses when you need something done,” he adds.

Never sign anything on the spot! Beware the friendly fraudster at your door that appears to be knowledgeable and can give you a one time-special price to fix your roof, fence or driveway. They put on the pressure to sign a contract or give a big deposit and do little, poor or no work at all.

Toronto retirees Judy Poirier and Robin Rushton ended up getting scammed out of $75,000 by a man who offered to cap their chimney. That $800 fee grew to $62,000 when the workers claimed extensive roof damage requiring structural repairs. The reno quote steadily climbed to beyond $100,000.

Apparently, the roof was falling down. They were terrified: “He used the words that there was damp wood, rotting wood, broken wood, mould. The roof was going to collapse. It was dangerous. Winter is coming,” Judy told cbc.ca. The truth is all the roof could have used were new shingles, at a cost of around $8,500.

Landlines increase vulnerability to fraud

The money paid in bank drafts is gone. “I’m an emotional wreck … I can’t tell you how terrible it is,” Judy told cbc.ca. “I don’t know how, if, we’ll ever be able to build our savings up again.”

It’s easy to fall victim to people who impersonate government agencies, grandchildren or other pushy people who quickly elicit trust, including investment, romance and service scammers. And fraudsters are only getting smarter and more sophisticated and employing artificial intelligence and QR Code fraud to steal. According to Horncastle, vulnerabilities in digital platforms are being exploited with “criminals commonly using caller id spoofing, search engine optimization, fraudulent online and social media ads or compromised accounts.”

Having a landline makes older homeowners an added prime target. Going on websites like Canada 411 offers loads of information like someone’s phone number, name and address. Scammers search obits and social media for names of grandchildren or relatives which they employ to manipulate seniors.

Don’t fall for high-pressure tactics

Horncastle reports that victims are being contacted through ads on social media, telemarketing calls or through door-to-door sales persons. Ads on social media will ask for your contact information, and then after sharing, you’ll receive a call to set up an appointment at your home.

“Door-to-door sales people can use high pressure tactics and can be aggressive in nature. Consumers may find themselves in a situation where they purchase a product or sign up for a service they neither need nor want,” says Horncastle, and that may come with contractual obligations. “They may claim that the victim is eligible for a grant through a government program and pressure the victim into signing a contract or prepaying for the equipment or services.”

Common home service scams include:

  • Air duct cleaning
  • Furnace, hot water tank or other home appliances/equipment
  • Paving services
  • General contracting/home maintenance
  • Internet, cable or cellphone services

Scammed home owners end up with work or equipment that is often not worth the price paid, and in some cases that warranties are invalid, he says. “The CAFC has also received reports where victims have signed a contract and a Notice of Security Interest (NOSI) has been placed on their home.”

Scammers impersonate legitimate companies

Scammers are predatory! “Whether you are getting a phone call, email or social media message always confirm the identity of the person by a different method of communication,” advises Horncastle. For example, look up the official phone number for the company, agency or person and make an outgoing phone call.

Fraudsters will often use the name of legitimate companies in order to convince you that the offer is legitimate, he says. Whether a new investment or making a purchase from a brand new merchant, always research. Verify contact information, URL, address on maps, etc.

Never give out personal or money information over the phone, online or at the door. Never let any salespeople into your home, and never to show them any bills, accounts, or otherwise personal information about you or your home expenses. 

Never feel pressured to make a decision. Get three to four quotes for any reno job, and sleep on it at least for a few day before making a decision. Always do your research, reach out to loved ones or the CAFC.

If your gut tells you that something isn’t right, most likely it isn’t.

Ron Lindsay adds that since some seniors may be less familiar with social media or current news, “it would be beneficial for children and grandchildren to talk to their older relatives about scams and educate them so they don’t become a victim.”

For more info on protecting yourself from being scammed, go to:

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