By Paula Frappier
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fraud and scams are on the rise and happen around us daily. Any of us can be targets of these crafty and believable schemes, leaving us feeling unsure, anxious and even pressured as they try to draw us in.
These scammers have now become quite professional, experts in their field, focusing on taking advantage of people and often targeting seniors.
I spoke with Christine Platt and Susie Gregg with the Waterloo Wellington Older Adult Strategy. They were part of a working group in collaboration with the Seniors Centre for Excellence, community partners and local older adults. Together they focused on the incidence and impact of fraud and scams on our local seniors and have created a calendar for 2024 that highlights information, tips, strategies and supports.
Susie and Christine reflected that fraud attempts have become so prevalent and mainstream that now it is no longer whether someone will try to scam you, but how often? Even during our conversation one of them received a text that a “UPS package was ready for pick up and that she just had to confirm her address.” A subtle scam that could have led to trouble if she hadn’t been aware that a legitimate business will not need to confirm your mailing address in this way. Instead of responding she blocked and deleted the message.
These fraudsters prey on our mental health, evoking feelings of uncertainty or anxiety as they try to make us respond to a situation urgently. For example, telling us that we would be in trouble with the government if we don’t pay additional taxes right away, or that a grandchild is in police custody and needs financial assistance.
Being faced with a scam can be worrying and in the moment overwhelming, tiring, frustrating and confusing, to name a few emotions described by some of the seniors with whom Christine spoke.
We need to be empowered to detect scams and learn what to do. Be aware and recognize scams in all their guises: online, over texts, phone calls, in the mail or even door to door.
Reject scammers by practicing your superpower of saying, “No!”. It is a healthy way to set the boundaries you need to protect yourself. Reputable businesses, financial institutions and government agencies will never contact you asking for your private, personal or account information. Do not give a caller your banking information, social insurance number, passwords, date of birth or pin numbers over the computer or phone.
There is an increase in door-to-door scams these days requesting money for services or charities that appear to be legitimate, but are not. Service scams include people offering a service, taking the money up front and never returning. Charity scams include people posing as agencies, collecting money. If you wish to make a donation or hire someone to do work, reach out directly to that organization.
Report scams promptly by notifying local police fraud lines and letting others know. This can make you feel empowered as you make a difference in stopping others from being scammed. That’s why learning to “Recognize, Reject and Report” is a good way to be prepared and know that you’re not alone. Reach out to family, friends and services whenever something is suspicious or if you are uncertain.
When we find ourselves caught up in a scam, we may feel ashamed that someone tricked us. Remember how prevalent these cases are. Scammers have become sophisticated. Some have even gone to the lengths of recording our voices, using our personal information and using technology that makes it look like they are legitimate. Regaining your confidence after a scam requires talking about it and finding the support you need.
Please seek help and guidance from fraud awareness services in your area. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre phone number is 1-888-495-8501. To obtain a free calendar (entitled, The Wise and Well: Empower Yourself against Fraud and Scams) reach out to a seniors centres in Guelph, Fergus and Mapleton. You do not need to be a member in order to get a calendar.
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Paula Frappier is an occupational therapist at Homewood Health Centre. The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE-247.