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3 Common Scams Aimed at Seniors

Scammers love targeting seniors for a few reasons. Firstly, they tend to have a lot of money or assets. Second, they may not be very technologically savvy. And finally, the older generation tends to be a little more trusting than the rest of us. Here are three scams to watch out for.

The Grandparent Scam

A senior gets a phone call. The voice at the other end says, “Hey Grandma, it’s me.” They don’t provide a name. Instead, they’ll say something like “Don’t you recognize my voice?” Once Grandma guesses a name or two, the scammer will say “that’s right!” and proceed to spin a sob story about trouble with the law, an accident, being stuck in another country, before asking for money. It’s a gross scam that preys on the love grandparents have for their grandchildren, and the time-sensitive nature of the request doesn’t leave a lot of room for second-guessing.

The CRA Scam

Every tax season, scammers dial hundreds of numbers, pose as members of the Canada Revenue Agency, and demand payment of an outstanding balance immediately—and wouldn’t you know it, you can take your credit card right now! Or they’ll send emails, with links you can follow and requests for personal information you can send over. Scammers especially love targeting seniors with this scam.

Here are some hard facts, right from the CRA themselves:

  • If you receive a call saying you owe money, you can always call the CRA and check.
  • The CRA will only email you if you have signed up for email.
  • The CRA will never send you a link via email unless you have first emailed them asking for a link for a specific document.
  • The CRA will never ask for personal information via email or text.
  • The CRA will never request payment via credit card or gift card.
  • The CRA will never leave personal information on an answering machine or in a voicemail.
  • The CRA will never give taxpayer information to another person, unless that person is authorized by the taxpayer.

The CRA has a resource page on different kinds of fraud and scams; it’s important to go over this information with the seniors in your life.

The Online Dating Scam

Seniors are online dating and scammers have followed. In 2016, Canadians lost more than $18 million in online dating scams, and police say that scammers love targeting seniors. Here’s how it works. The senior will get matched up with a fellow senior, usually with a good job like ‘civil engineer’. But their match will be working in a different country. They’ll send things like flowers and gifts to prove their affection. And then they’ll request some money—for travel expenses, or because of accidents, or some other excuse. Eventually, they’ll stop communication. This scam is especially insidious because the scammer will spend weeks and months faking a romantic relationship.

The Bottom Line

It’s important to talk to the seniors in your life about the dangers of Internet and phone scams. The digital world can be a dangerous place and the more information they have, the better equipped they’ll be.