It is becoming more and more common for me to hear about some of our older adult clients becoming involved in scams that end up costing them hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. The latest scam I have heard about is the senior receives a call stating that they have won millions of dollars, and all they have to do is submit their bank account information, submit a cheque to cover the taxes etc. and then they get the money. Some people are very vulnerable, and trusting, and they can get quite caught up in the moment and the excitement. This apparent windfall can also greatly improve the person’s mood, and they can actually appear euphoric.
Mix the announcement of this apparent lottery winning with the vulnerability of memory loss or cognitive impairment that can often accompany the advancement of years and the scammer has his or her next victim. Judgement and insight may be slightly impaired, making the victim susceptible to being duped. I have often come across mail, emails, and phone calls that proclaim a large sum of money is coming my way, but I can easily spot that it is not legitimate due to what kinds of information is in (or is lacking from) the communication.
We are all possible victims of these phishing or direct scams. For example, I received an email the other day from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency advising me that I have a refund of $410.00 coming to me. I was instructed to click on the link provided so that I could give my bank account information etc. so that I could claim my refund. This email is called “phishing” and I knew it was not legitimate because, 1. the email was addressed to my email address, not my name and 2. I had not put in my Income Tax documents yet and 3. I had already given them my banking information for automatic deposits when I have a refund coming to me. It would be very easy for someone who is new at using the computer to see this as legitimate and proceed with giving valuable, personal information that may cost them hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars.
I have also received a few emails from “Shaw”, “Visa”, “Paypal” and other imposters claiming that I need to urgently “update” my account details by clicking on the link provided or else my service may be suspended. I know that if there was a real concern, I would most likely be getting a letter in the mail, or a phone call to my home asking me to call them regarding my account. If you are a senior, and you are new at using the computer, you may be trusting and not realize that there are scammers out there trying to get your personal information.
Another scam that I am aware of is the “grandchild” scam. Someone calls a senior, saying that they are their grandchild. They ask, “Can you guess which one?” And the senior responds with the person they think they are talking to, and then the person proceeds to represent that person and asks for some money to help them out (and to not tell their parents). This becomes a secretive situation, and it often goes undetected, and continues for a long time.
One of the best defenses for helping our seniors who end up getting phone calls is to report it to the bank, and the authorities and change the older person’s phone number. Oftentimes the best defense is to be forewarned, and there is nothing else we can do. Education is key.
I was also thinking that one of the best things we can do when assessing our older clients, is to ask them if there is anyone that they are giving/lending money to and if they have been told they have won money. If there is a positive response to either of these questions, it warrants further investigation to determine if the person is being scammed or not.
There are many scams out there, and I have even been made aware of a situation where a man posed as a doctor, and told the older woman that he was going to help her get the “proper” walker for her, and he escorted her to the bank, got her to withdraw $500 and then left her to fend for herself to get home. She never saw him again.
Most people are good and can be trusted. There are a few bad apples in the bunch, and we just need to be on the lookout. I provide this information to make you aware that there are scams that target trustworthy, vulnerable people and it is especially true for the older adult population.
Please share your comments here if you have any other insights or advice.