The number one crime against older Canadians is fraud. People of all ages can be victims of fraud, however older people get targeted more than others. This may be because they are often home during the day to answer the door or phone, they can be more trusting and they may not have family or friends close by to ask for a second opinion.
People who commit fraud and scams are commonly called con artists. Con artists don't always target people who have a lot of money. A con artist may steal a small amount from many people. They use a variety of ways to reach people, including the Internet, phone calls and even door-to-door visits. They know how to talk to people and how to be very believable.
Susan received a phone call telling her that she had won a free trip. The caller started by congratulating Susan and telling her all the exciting details of her prize. Susan was excited and happy to hear this amazing news. Then the caller told Susan she simply needed to pay a small fee right away in order to claim her trip and asked for a credit card number. Susan thought about it and couldn’t remember entering a contest for a free trip. She knew she shouldn’t give her credit card number over the phone to anyone, especially to someone who had called her. Susan realized this was too good to be true and hung up and called PhoneBusters to report a probable scam.
Common types of fraud and scams
Identity theft occurs when a con artist steals your personal information so they can pretend to be you and do things like apply for a credit card, take out a loan or mortgage, get a cell phone or even withdraw bank funds. The con artist will try to get information such as a bank card number and personal identity number (PIN), credit card number, health card number, driver's license and Social Insurance Number (SIN). Sometimes they will steal or copy the documents, however; all they need is the information. If your wallet is lost or stolen, or mail you are expecting goes missing, be sure to report it right away to your bank or credit union.
Credit/debit card fraud
Credit card and debit card fraud occurs when a con artist uses your card or a copy to make purchases or withdraw money from your account. Some ways to reduce the risk of falling victim to this type of scam is to keep your card in sight, memorize your PIN and shielding your hand when you enter your PIN.
There are many online scams and unfortunately, new ones appear all the time. Some are asking for your help, some say there is a problem with your bank account or even your tax return. Scam emails can sometimes be easy to spot because of spelling and other mistakes, however, some look very convincing and appear to be coming from an organization or even a person you know. If you are not sure about an email, for example if it asks you respond with personal or financial information or to go to another website and enter information there — do not respond to the email and call to check.
Phone and door-to-door scams
Phone and door-to-door scams are unfortunately very common. These scams may involve someone calling or coming to your door pretending to be a representative of a charity, an employee of a credit card company, or even a distant relative. You might even be offered a free prize or trip. If you aren't completely sure who you are dealing with do not give the person any money or information. Never invite someone you don’t know into your home.
Sometimes people call or come to your door using high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy something you don't want or need or to talk you into getting work done on your house and then overcharging you or doing a bad job. While this is not always illegal, it is wrong and should be reported.
Tips and safeguards
- If you don't need them, do not carry your birth certificate, passport or SIN card. Keep all personal documents in a secure place.
- Never tell another person your PIN or account passwords and take care to cover your hand when entering your PIN at bank machines and when making store purchases.
- Safely dispose of old bills and statements. Shredding is best.
- Do not click on pop-up windows, respond to emails, open attachments or go to website links sent by people you don’t know. Your bank or credit union will never send you anything by email asking for personal or financial information from you.
- If someone contacts you, never give out your credit card, bank account, or any personal information to someone over the phone, at the door, or over the Internet.
- Do not sign an agreement or contract to buy anything without giving yourself time to think it over. If a salesperson insists that an "offer" is "time limited" and you must decide that moment, the offer is probably too good to be true and it’s better not to buy. Remember its never rude or impolite to tell someone you need time to consider the offer and discuss with your family.
- Be suspicious if someone you don't know asks you to send them money or a cheque, or to return money they "accidentally" sent you.
- Before hiring someone or agreeing to have work done on your home, ask for proof of identity and references and always check them out. Ask a family member or friend for help if you need it.
What should you do if you think you’ve been scammed? Report it!
All fraud and scams should be reported, even if you are embarrassed or feel the amount of money is too small to worry about. Remember they did something wrong not you. While you might not be able to get your money back, they will strike again and by reporting it you can help stop them from scamming other people.
Report all fraud and scams to your local police, or call PhoneBusters at 1-888-495-8501.