July 9, 2012
Growing fraud against seniors threatens both financial and emotional security. Seniors who have been defrauded may suffer long-lasting trauma that often erodes their sense of trust and well-being, senior care experts have noted.
Canada's population of seniors is larger than ever before, making them a prime target for criminals who wish to prey on the vulnerable. Three crimes, in particular, are on the rise, experts say. They are identity theft, insurance fraud, and financial exploitation.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have identified the following ways identity theft, insurance fraud and financial exploitation crimes are commonly played out.
- Telemarketing fraud. Many reputable Canadian companies use the telephone to disseminate information about their goods and services. Hiding behind anonymity, criminals take advantage of seniors by sounding exactly like a legitimate business.
- Identity theft. A voice on the phone asks, "Please verify the last three digits of your social insurance number. We believe that there has been fraudulent activity with your credit card." By invoking fear, scammers take full advantage of the elderly to obtain the necessary information and exploit their identity.
- Charity scams. The scammer calls you and asks for a small donation on behalf of his or her charitable organization. Criminals succeed at deceiving people as they often use names of charities that sound extremely similar to distinguished ones.
- Medical fraud. Qualified healthcare providers are the only ones eligible to provide medical treatment and sell medical supplies. Criminals will often try and offer medical services over the phone and/or by mail. Also, many scammers have been receiving free treatment by assuming someone else's identity and using their health card.
- The prize scam. Someone calls to tell you that you have won a prize (trip, money, car, etcetera), but you must submit a payment in order to obtain the prize.
- Business/investment opportunities. Scammers will call you proposing a once in a lifetime opportunity, promising high returns after you send a registration and/or investment payment.
Experts say there's little doubt an older adult will be the target of a scammer sooner or later. It might come in the form of a knock on the door, an offer to shingle the roof, a phone call from a friendly voice that guarantees big savings on medications or an email that promises the biggest return ever on an investment.
Learn the three Financial Abuse Tactics (PDF 420k) that fraudsters use to deceive unsuspecting older adults.
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