Elderly Ontarians Increasingly Falling Victim to Fraud Scams

Elderly Ontarians Increasingly Falling Victim to Fraud Scams

Seniors in Ontario Remain Vulnerable to Scams.

Diane Lindsay, a resident of Ingersoll, Ont., received a phone call two weeks ago from someone claiming to be a police officer from Woodstock RCMP, informing her that her grandson had been in an accident, had drugs in his car, and was being held in jail, which required her to post a $9,000 bond to secure his release.

Although her husband, Ron, was suspicious of the call, the intricate nature of the caller’s narrative and their knowledge of the couple’s personal information made Diane more trusting.

Although Ron didn’t believe the story, he drove to his daughter’s house to verify his grandson’s whereabouts, discovering he was neither sick nor in jail.

Seniors in Ontario remain a target for scammers, with Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre data showing that the number of seniors falling victim to fraud scams has continued to rise in the past three years, resulting in a corresponding increase in the dollar value lost.

In 2022, Ontario saw 1,177 reported emergency scams accounting for $5.4 million lost. Grandparent scams, specifically, are often targeted at seniors over the age of 60, with 917 such scams resulting in almost $4.6 million in total losses. Across Canada, there were 2,488 emergency scams with losses over $9.4 million.

Det.-Const. John Armit of the Ontario Provincial Police stated that landline users are often the targets of such scams because their phone number, name, and address can be easily obtained through a simple search on a website like Canada 411.

Fraudsters can use this information to manipulate seniors, particularly through grandparent scams, which is one of the most popular scams currently.

According to Armit, seniors are 33% more likely to lose money in a scam than other age groups, and once they have been victimized, they are frequently re-targeted.

The CAFC’s Senior Support Unit and the Canadian Bankers Association’s Your Money Seniors program are two programs aimed at helping seniors prevent scams.

Both programs use volunteer staff to provide literature, conduct training sessions on fraud loss prevention, and offer support for seniors who have fallen victim to scams.

Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, a provincial government-mandated organization, offers webinars, fact sheets, and info sessions at recreation centers, aiming to educate seniors on scams.

Laura Proctor, an elder abuse prevention consultant at Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, reports that 20% of the calls her organization receives are related to fraud and scams.

She emphasizes that seniors often experience shame after being scammed, which can cause them not to report it. She also says that social isolation makes them vulnerable to scammers, who often pose as authorities or someone in a position of trust.

Proctor emphasizes the importance of seniors being able to pause, think, and make phone calls to verify information before deciding.

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