Moose Jaw Police Service Cst. Kent Westrom delivers fraud and scam tips to seniors at the Moose Jaw District and Senior Citizens Centre on Wednesday afternoon. Times-Herald photo by Nathan Liewicki
Personal financial information shouldn’t be shared with anyone, even family or close friends.
“I was reading a mother had said that she got some help from her daughter using a credit card and then when the statement came in for the previous month, there were charges that the mother didn’t remember making,” said Catherine Gaudreau, spokesperson with the Canada Safety Council. “The daughter kind of laughed it off because the result there was that her financial information had been used by her daughter to acquire items.
“So fraud isn’t necessarily strangers. It can be people close to you.”
From Nov. 6 to 12 it is National Seniors Safety Week. This year, the annual week will draw attention to financial fraud. Gaudreau said Canadians are defrauded out of $10 billion a year.
Through research, she said the Canada Safety Council determined seniors are “likely targets” of fraud scams. Some of those reasons include their tendency to have better credit than average Canadians, their tendency to be “trusting and generous,” which can be taken advantage of, and sometimes she said they have trouble using new technology and online systems.
“One of the big ones as well is that seniors aren’t likely to speak up when fraud happens to them. So we’re trying to encourage people to realize that fraud can happen to anyone,” said Gaudreau. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, your age is, your life experience — (some) fraud scams are obvious to spot, some of them aren’t as obvious to spot.”
According to the RCMP, nine out of 10 Canadians who are victims of fraud don’t speak about it or report it.
To help prevent being a victim of fraud, people should also shield the keypad with a free hand while entering credit or debit card personal identification number (PIN) into an ATM or when making a purchase, avoid using free wireless Internet at coffee shops to do online banking and to file or shred credit card or debit statements.
Gaudreau said people shopping online should only shop from “reputable retailers.”
“Shopping from amazon.com, for example, would probably be safer than from purchasing something from an individual seller on ebay,” she said. “As well, just use one credit card to pay for your purchases and that makes it easier to track transactions and to report suspicious activity.”
Further, if a “deal sounds too good to be true, then it more than likely is,” she added. If someone is pressuring an individual to buy something, take the time to think about the purchase before buying it. Moreover, people don’t have to let others into their home.
“One of my co-workers was sharing a story. Her mother was in a retirement home and somebody came to the door, looked clean-shaven and reputable and whatnot, and he asked to have a glass of water,” said Gaudreau. “So (my co-worker’s) mother went to get him a glass of water and in the meantime the man had come into her apartment, snatched her purse and left.”
She added people should only donate to trusted charities and don’t have to do it over the phone. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has a list of several scams.
If anyone is a victim of a fraud scam, notify the financial institution, call the police to make a statement and get in touch with the anti-fraud centre. Write down what happened in the incident as soon as possible, which may prove helpful in future investigations.
“If it does happen it’s important to report the fraud as soon as possible,” said Gaudreau. “We’re hoping that seniors will realize that they’re not alone in this and that fraud is a crime.”
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.