Anti-Fraud month: Seniors scams to watch out for

stop fraud

As my Mom gets older, I become increasingly aware of how vulnerable she is to financial scams and fraud. We help her with her finances because she sometimes forgets to pay bills. She is also tempted by phone calls from telemarketers offering everything from a “free” trip to the Bahamas to a better deal on her cellphone or cable TV.

But if she did not have close family to advise her and unknowingly trusted unscrupulous caregivers, fraudulent purchases or bank transfers might not be noticed for months, if at all.

That’s why I’m glad that for the 11th year in a row organizations like the Better Business Bureau, the Competition Bureau, and the RCMP have designated March as Fraud Prevention Month and are cooperating to educate seniors and other Canadians on how to recognize some well-known scams and avoid them.

Here are some common scams you should be aware of.

The Grandparent Scam: Scammers contact victims claiming to be a relative in an emergency situation and in dire need of financial assistance. They also ask the senior citizen not to tell anyone.

Bereavement Scams: Scammers scour the obituaries and contact victims who recently lost a loved-one claiming the deceased had unpaid bills or debts that must be paid right away.

Funeral Scams: While most funeral homes run ethical businesses, some unscrupulous owners will take advantage of people in their time of grief and vastly overcharge for caskets, services or unnecessary items while the victim is vulnerable.

Sweetheart Scams: The scammer befriends the victim online or in person and expresses romantic interest. While romancing the victim and earning their trust, the scammer may gain access to personal and financial information.

Charity Scams: Often in the wake of a catastrophe like a hurricane, flood or terrorist act, scammers will set up “relief funds” to help survivors and solicit donations from victims. The gift goes right into the scammer’s pocket and both the victims of the scam and of the catastrophe have lost their money.

Windfall Scams: These scams involve a piece of unexpected good fortune, typically one that involves receiving a large amount of money. Lottery, sweepstakes and inheritance scams are common examples.

House and Home Scams: These scams include fly-by-night contractors who claim to be in the area and have the tools to fix that leaky roof or other problem, to unsolicited door-to-door salesmen to aggressive telemarketers and reverse mortgage scams.

Investment Scams: Affinity fraud, Ponzi and pyramid schemes, fast talking investors try to pressure people into making hasty decisions based on false guarantees that could involve offshore funds.

The BBB recommends these tips for caregivers and seniors to protect themselves from fraud:

  • Don’t wire money to anyone until you’ve confirmed their identity
  • Arrange to have a trusted family member handle the financial matters in the days following the loss of a loved one
  • You can plan and pay for your funeral in advance, but take a friend with you to help you make informed decisions
  • Keep your personal information and financial documents locked and secured in a safe place and have a back-up location with hard and soft copies
  • Avoid lending money. If someone becomes angry because you’ve refused them a loan, they probably don’t have your best interests at heart
  • Check and verify a charity’s legitimacy by consulting with Canada Revenue Agency before making any donations

For more tips you can trust, check out Savvy Seniors consumer tip video and visit



1 Comment

  1. Sheryl, it’s unfortunate there are so many senior scams around, which have also included US life settlements where retail investors in Canadian companies such as New Life Capital in Toronto and Focused Money in Calgary have lost their money because of the Fund Managers “running off” with their funds. Others such as Universal Settlements in Burlington had to seek CCCA protection and are in the process of being sold so their investors can recover some of their investment.
    However that does not mean that a life settlement is a scam, but it could still be a “risky” investment if the investor is unaware of the potential risks (as well as the rewards).
    If you have any readers who are interested in this Alternative Investment class they should visit my website where we can advise them not only how much their OWN life policy is worth, but the risks and rewards of a US life settlement investment they may be contemplating.

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