One day this past spring, I answered a call from an unfamiliar, long-distance phone number. On the other end of the line was a man in a very abrupt voice telling me that there was an issue with my tax return and I owed the government of Canada money. He told me that if I did not pay the money within the next 24 hours that I would be arrested and charged. I furrowed my brow, and hung up the phone. I knew enough about scams to realize this was one straight away. I knew that the Canadian government would never call me to tell me I’d be arrested if I didn’t pay them money within 24 hours. But still, I was a bit rattled. Having anyone call you and threaten your arrest, no matter how innocent you may be, is unsettling. I couldn’t help but think about vulnerable adults out there who may receive similar phone calls and not be able to discern their validity.
Knowing how to protect yourself and your loved one from scams is important. It can prevent you from losing great sums of money, and perhaps even your identity. Con-artists are not always as transparent as the man who phoned me this past spring – they can be quite sneaky and hard to recognise. Educating yourself and your loved one on the ways you might be targeted can help you and your loved one stay safe.
Some Types of Scams
Grandparent scams (also called grandchild scams) are common scams that target seniors. These scams usually involve a phone call from someone who pretends to be your grandchild. If you get a call like this, be prepared: the scammer may already know your grandchild’s name and what your grandchild calls you (for example, a nickname like Nona or Grampy).
Acting as your grandchild, the scammer claims to be in trouble and asks for your help. The scammer may try to convince you that your grandchild was in a car accident or has been arrested. You may be asked to wire money right away, without telling anyone.What to do: If you receive a call like this, DON’T wire the money or give the caller any further information. Hang up and call your grandchild, or another family member, to find out what’s really going on. Then report the scam to:
Charity Scams: Because many seniors donate to charity, older people are often the targets of charity scams. Legitimate organizations may ask for donations in person, over the phone, by mail or via email. Unfortunately, many scams operate this way as well. It can be hard to tell the difference. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You don’t have to make a donation. Don’t let anyone pressure you. If you’re not sure or feel uncomfortable, just say, “No thanks, I’m not interested.” A legitimate organization will respect your wishes.
- Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
- Never send cash, and don’t give your personal information, social insurance number, credit card, or banking information to a stranger.
- If you want to support a particular organization, consider planned giving. You can decide how much you can afford to give, and contact the organization directly to set up a monthly or one-time donation.
Not all non-profit organizations are registered charities. If you donate to an organization that is not a registered charity, you won’t get a receipt for income tax purposes.
Use the Charities Listings to confirm whether a charity is registered under the Income Tax Act and is therefore eligible to issue official donation receipts; view a charity’s contact information; and view a charity’s Registered Charity Information Return, which includes:financial information (assets, liabilities, income, and expenditures); and activities.
A fraudster will call you claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency
, saying that there is a problem with your taxes and that you owe money. They may say that there is a warrant for your arrest or that you are facing deportation. They demand payment to cancel the warrant or stop deportation proceedings. You are instructed to buy pre-paid gift cards or iTunes cards, and then tell them the codes over the phone.The CRA will never call you threatening arrest or deportation or demanding payment by credit card, pre-paid gift cards or iTunes cards.
Romance Scams – Many seniors have turned to the internet looking for companionship, only to be victimized by fraudsters. They will “meet” someone online who seems very nice and decent, and will develop strong feelings for that person based on email correspondence and photos the fraudster has exchanged with them. Invariably, the fraudster will ask for money as they need an emergency loan to secure a business deal or get them out of trouble, and they will promise quick repayment once the crisis passes. Unfortunately, many seniors have lost significant sums of money, which cannot be recovered from fraudsters who can’t be located or identified.
Email phishing – You will receive an email that appears to be from a well-known Canadian bank asking you to confirm your personal details and account information. This is always a scam. No reputable business or bank will send you emails asking you to confirm information they already have. Fraudsters are trying to get this information from you in order to steal your identity and commit fraud in your name.
For more information on scams, visit VPD, BC Gov, or get up-to-date information on the latest scams from the Better Business Bureau.
Sources: VPD, BC Gov
Cassandra Van Dyck