Fraud prevention: beyond the scam
Chances are, you or someone you know have been the target of a scam at some point. In fact, recent data suggests between 2014 and 2016, 1 in 6 Canadians said they were a victim of fraud. The losses can range anywhere from a few dollars, identity theft, or even financial devastation. And these are just reflective of the incidents that have been reported: while reports of fraud are increasing, there are many people—especially seniors—who hesitate to report the crime to police, often because they feel ashamed or foolish for falling for a scam.
It’s not your fault
Often, senior are targeted for their perceived weaknesses: lack of understanding technology, health issues, cognitive decline, access to large sums of money, and loneliness or isolation, can all be contributing factors. Scammers are banking on that: they are very good at what they do.
In other words: people of all ages, spanning vast socioeconomic background are targeted. Add to that, the types of fraud are both sophisticated and ever-evolving, so it can be nearly impossible to keep up with the latest strategies scammers employ to cheat others.
Blaming someone or shaming them when they “fall for a scam” is neither helpful or productive, and may lead to the individual hiding or underreporting a future incident. Instead, encourage your loved one to retrace their steps and report their loss to authorities.
Why do scams work?
A lot of people think: “I can see a scam from a mile away”. Ubiquitous scams like the “Nigerian Prince email” have been floating around for a long time, and seem easy to recognize. But even as we change the way we communicate and detect scams, the fraudster’s playbook is evolving just as rapidly.
Most scams, regardless of their origin, most often take advantage of base emotional responses. For example:
Sympathy: false charity fundraisers, a person feigning distress, romance or dating scams, grandparents scam
Prosperity: investment scams, insurance fraud, funeral planning scams, and free or deeply discounted merchandise
Alarm: emergency home improvement scams, false notices of legal troubles for yourself or a family member, impersonating a government agency claiming you owe money, or an employer asking you to urgently purchase multiple gift cards on your personal credit card
Boredom: unintentionally sharing information through online games, or unsecured websites
No matter what emotions the proposal plays on, one thing will always be true: if it seems to good to be true, have someone you trust get involved before you make any decisions. And if the request is urgent and is asking for kind of payment or financial commitment, chances are, you’re being targeted.
Same play, different delivery
Emerging technology such as artificial intelligence has made it very easy for scammers to create sophisticated and realistic voices for phone scams, even impersonating a relative or friend convincingly.
Dubious e-commerce sites may send unsolicited packages to people, called ‘brushing’—which seems innocuous enough—but ultimately leads to false reviews on sites like Amazon, using your personal account data (and possibly selling it) to boost their sales.
Phishing, or spoofing, is a common tactic scammers use to get your information, and usually involves a user filling out a form with your personal information to claim a prize or vacation, update a user account, or even as threatening letter from a government agency, the police, or employer. This information is collected and used to record highly sensitive information like your credit card number or social insurance number.
Of all of the scams out there, here are some of the most common ones targeting seniors:
- Telemarketing fraud
- Home improvement fraud
- Door-to-door sales scams
- False charity fraud
- Dead-air calls
- Service scams
- Grandparent scams
Scammers aren’t going away anytime soon, and they will continue to develop ways to deceive you into giving them your money, so keeping up-to-date with trending scams will help you more easily detect when you’re being targeted.
What you can do
Today’s seniors are more connected than ever—the majority of Canadian seniors use the internet for their day-to-day tasks like banking, setting up appointments, and most of all, connecting with their loved ones. Keeping a tightly monitored online presence will help you protect you and your loved ones from the many scams that occur online.
One of the most pervasive types of scams are sent through email. Scammers will get your attention with the threat of legal trouble for non-compliance, prompting a quick response, because the source seems to be legit—for example, a balance owing on your utility account, or a notice from the government. Before you reply with your information or submit a payment, check your records and contact the institution to confirm the status of your account.
If you’re active online, especially on social media, remember scammers are too. Social media is a prime platform for scammers to capture your data, and sell it to the highest bidder. Check the source when you participate in the seemingly entertaining online quizzes, polls, or share memes that pop up in your feed. Often, if the source isn’t credible, there’s a scammer on the other end stealing your information.
Angela Elia, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at United explains, “I love social media for the opportunities to create connections with people you care about, or to keep up with what’s going on in the lives of your loved ones,” she adds, “but you really have to be careful, there’s a lot of ways people give away their personal information without even realizing it. Chances are, that radio station poll you’re responding to isn’t a real station, or the answers they are asking for will look suspiciously like your banking security questions.” Take a few minutes to ensure you and your loved ones have set up accounts securely, and that they are aware of the information they are sharing.”
To help reduce a scammer’s access to your information, start by tightening up the ways scammers can find you.
- Set up two email accounts: one for your important information such as banking, bill payments, personal communication, and another to use for online forms, retail points accounts, and social media accounts
- If you’re active on social media, set your profiles to private, and only post photos to known friends and family
- Set up two-factor authentication for all accounts and devices as a double layer of security
- Use strong passwords and consider using a credible password manager to keep your information safe
- Turn off location settings, and ensure privacy settings are enabled on your smartphone
- Set up a service like call control, and register for the National Do Not Call list
- Be cautious about participating in polls or sharing information through public posts on social media
- If you suspect fraud, report any information you have to Canada’s Competition Bureau
Preventing fraud isn’t a simple task, but it’s important to keep on top of the trends to avoid the potential losses can bring. For seniors, having support of family members and a community that cares about their well-being is the first step in ensuring scammers have fewer opportunities to harm you or your loved ones.
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Speak with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help!