New website offers seniors jargon-free information to help avoid becoming a victim of fraud and senior-focused scams.
Does it seem scams and fraud against seniors are on the rise?
Rarely a month goes by without news of the latest scheme targeting Canadians – especially seniors – whether it’s a so-called grandparent’s scam, romance scam, CRA and gift card swindle, or a prescription scam.
The list goes on, and yes, it’s increasing in frequency. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported that in just the first two months of 2022, nearly 8,000 victims lost over $75 million to fraud.
To fight back against the scammers, senior-serving groups in the Edmonton area have banded together to create a plain language educational initiative, a free program at seniorfraudalert.ca that will walk people through the jargon, the latest scams and how to avoid them, and where to reach out if someone is a victim of a scam.
Linda Ensley, executive director of the St. Albert Seniors Association, says the free course and website came about when local senior’s groups realized many seniors were unfamiliar with the basics about fraud, from terminology to the ins and outs of the latest scheme targeting the older population.
“This initiative is entirely senior-focused and senior-driven,” she said. “We found seniors continue to get defrauded, often because they don’t understand jargon like URL or phishing.
“Each quiz and script on the site were created based on information gathered by senior’s focus groups: jargon-free, plain language information that explains everything about fraud, so anyone can understand.”
Ensley said the program includes a YouTube video, a quiz, and modules to work through at one’s own pace. All the information is positive and empowering, rather than negative and fear-inducing.
It has been translated into seven languages already, including French, Cantonese, Italian, Spanish and Ukrainian, with Punjabi and Hindi slated to come. An initiative led by the YEG Seniors Alliance, (Edmonton Seniors Centre, Westend Seniors Activity Centre, ICAN Seniors Association) and in conjunction with the Edmonton Police Service, the project was also made possible with a grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation.
“There continues to be sad stories of those who lose everything from their bank accounts, and can’t even put food on the table,” Ensley said. “We work with the Edmonton Police Service, and all of us want to see a reduction of these crimes. A site like this arms seniors with knowledge so they will be less likely to fall victim to these schemes.”
In early March, Edmonton Police received several complaints of seniors being contacted by someone who said their grandchild needed bail money. Pretending to be police, a lawyer, or the grandchild themselves, scammers requested credit card information to help bail out the grandchild who was arrested or in an accident. At least one victim was defrauded of over $25,000, according to police.
In a statement, Staff Sgt. Tom Paton reminded the public that scammers prey on emotions but that whenever a demand for money is made, citizens should pause and evaluate.
“If someone is claiming your family member is in trouble, confirm with family before you provide personal or financial information,” he said. “If a person claims to be from a police service, call that service directly to confirm the situation. Police will never contact you and demand money.”
Have you heard of the prescription scam? Ensley said this scam sees fraudsters getting hold of an old prescription bottle (or the tossed-out receipt in the bag), and then phoning the senior, acting as the pharmacy. They tell the unwitting senior the doctor has changed their prescription, that insurance won’t cover it, and they’ll have to provide their credit card information to pay for the new medication.
“It’s just one of many: there is the licence plate sticker scam, subscription scams, investment scams, fake websites – there’s always something new. That’s why we want seniors to regularly use seniorfraudalert.ca to get the latest information and updates on a scam, or to report scams they hear about or fall victim to, so we can help each other avoid the traps,” she said.