Financial fraud is a problem that affects millions of Canadians every year, with older Canadians increasingly becoming the target of potential fraudsters.
Many of the most common scams law enforcement officials are seeing today – including the so-called "grandparent scam" – are designed to specifically target seniors.
In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received reports of 379 cases involving 115 victims, with more than $1.7 million in losses related to the grandparent scam alone. But since the start of 2022, the Centre says there have been 674 cases involving 273 victims and resulting in $2.7 million in losses. At the same time, the CAFC estimates that only a small fraction of victims report these types of frauds due to embarrassment.
As fraudsters increasingly leverage new technologies and tactics to create more sophisticated scams, it's important to have conversations with older friends and family members to help them better understand how to identify and avoid fraud.
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"Seniors are often targeted by fraudsters because they are perceived to have more wealth and presumed to be less knowledgeable about navigating online," says Adrienne Vickery, Associate Vice President, North American Fraud Operations, Customer, Colleague & Strategic Initiatives, TD Bank Group.
"It's increasingly important to stay aware of the latest fraud trends and scams and share your knowledge with the seniors in your life to help protect one another from falling victim to fraud," she said.
Here are some tips to help guide a conversation about how fraud can impact seniors:
- Learn to recognize common scams: Talk to the seniors in your life about how to spot some of the more common types of scams – including romance scams, investment scams, and the grandparent scam. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is a great resource for current fraud trends.
- Talk to family and friends about how they can protect themselves: Provide family members with a few helpful reminders to protect themselves, such as being mindful of not sharing personal or financial information with someone over the phone or online.
- Encourage seniors you know to keep an eye on their finances: Suggest signing up for online and telephone banking so they can regularly review their account activity. If they have a mobile phone, suggest they sign up for text message fraud alerts from their bank.
- Tell seniors you know that it's okay to ask for help: Remind them that if something seems strange or too good to be true, it's okay to ask a trusted friend for a second opinion.
Most of all, it's important for seniors, and all Canadians, to shake off the stigma that comes with being defrauded.
Fraud doesn't discriminate – Canadians of all ages lost $379 million to fraudsters in 2021, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) – and that only represents the fraud that was reported. The CAFC estimates that fewer than 5% of victims file a fraud report with the agency. As of July 31, 2022, the CAFC has received 52,735 reports of fraud with losses totaling more than $284 million.