By Dave Oswald, Forensic Restitution
As we celebrate Seniors Month, it is essential to shed light on the alarming increase in scams targeting older Ontarians. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reported a staggering $531 million in fraud cases in 2022, with approximately 26 percent of these funds stolen from seniors. These numbers, however, only represent a fraction of the actual fraud occurrences, as the CAFC estimates that less than 10 percent of victims come forward to report these crimes.
In an effort to raise awareness and protect our senior population, we will highlight the top fraud schemes that targeted seniors in 2022:
- False Investment Opportunities:
Nationally, fraudulent investment schemes cost victims $79.1 million, with $36.5 million reported in Ontario alone. Scammers often prey on seniors who seek secure financial stability for retirement. They promise high returns on investments or present opportunities in non-existent or fraudulent companies. It is crucial for seniors to be cautious and conduct thorough research before investing their hard-earned money. Seeking advice from reputable financial advisors or consulting the Ontario Securities Commission can help verify the legitimacy of investment opportunities.
- Romance Frauds:
In 2022, romance scams accounted for $19.5 million nationwide, with $8.8 million reported in Ontario. These scams target vulnerable seniors who are seeking companionship and emotional connections. Perpetrators create fake online personas on dating websites or social media platforms to establish trust. They manipulate their victims into providing money or personal information by playing on their emotions. It is important for seniors to be cautious when interacting with individuals online and to avoid sharing personal or financial information with strangers.
- Fake Service Providers:
Seniors lost $8.5 million across Canada, with $6 million reported in Ontario, due to scams involving fraudulent service providers. These scammers pose as legitimate contractors or professionals offering services such as home repairs, renovations, or medical assistance. They often demand payment upfront and either deliver subpar work or vanish without completing the job. Seniors should always verify the credentials of service providers, seek recommendations from trusted sources, and be cautious when dealing with unfamiliar individuals or companies.
- Extortion Schemes:
Extortion scams cost victims $7.7 million nationally, with $542,000 reported in Ontario in 2022. Fraudsters employ various tactics, such as threatening phone calls or emails, to intimidate seniors into paying large sums of money to prevent alleged consequences. These schemes can include fabricated legal troubles, false debts, or compromising personal information. Seniors should be aware of these tactics and remember that legitimate organizations will not use such aggressive and coercive methods to collect money. It is important to stay calm, not engage with the fraudsters, and report the incidents to the authorities.
- Emergency or Grandparent Scams:
Nationwide, emergency or grandparent scams resulted in losses of $7.1 million, with $4.3 million reported in Ontario. Scammers exploit the love and concern grandparents have for their grandchildren by impersonating them in distressing situations, such as accidents or legal troubles. They manipulate seniors into providing financial aid urgently, playing on their emotions and desire to protect their loved ones. Seniors should always verify the identity of the person in need by contacting other family members or directly reaching out to the grandchild involved before sending any money.
It is crucial for seniors and their loved ones to remain vigilant and educated about these common scams targeting older Ontarians. By recognizing the red flags and staying informed, we can reduce the risk of falling victim to these fraudulent schemes.
Forensic Restitution urges everyone to take proactive steps to safeguard themselves and their elderly family members:
- Stay informed:
Keep up with the latest fraud trends, techniques, and scams that target seniors by regularly visiting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s website or subscribing to their updates. Stay informed about the tactics used by scammers and the evolving landscape of fraud to better protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Be cautious online:
Exercise caution when interacting with individuals or organizations online. Seniors should be skeptical of unsolicited requests or offers that seem too good to be true. Avoid sharing personal or financial information with strangers, especially through email or unfamiliar websites. Remember that legitimate organizations will not ask for sensitive information or payment details via email or phone calls.
- Maintain strong passwords and security measures:
Seniors should use strong, unique passwords for their online accounts and avoid using the same password across multiple platforms. Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security. Regularly update security software and keep devices, such as computers and smartphones, protected against malware and viruses.
- Stay connected:
Maintain open lines of communication with elderly family members or friends. Regular check-ins can help detect scams early and prevent financial losses. Encourage them to share any suspicious encounters or requests for money. By fostering a supportive and trusting environment, seniors may feel more comfortable reaching out for help or advice when faced with potential scams.
- Report incidents:
If you or someone you know falls victim to a fraud or scam, report it promptly to the appropriate authorities. Contact local law enforcement, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and your provincial consumer protection agency. Reporting these incidents not only increases the chances of apprehending the scammers but also helps in raising awareness and preventing others from becoming victims.
The alarming rise in fraud cases targeting seniors calls for increased awareness and vigilance. By understanding the top fraud schemes, staying informed, and taking proactive measures, we can protect our senior population from falling prey to scams. Together, let us make a concerted effort to safeguard our elderly loved ones and ensure their financial and emotional well-being.