Protecting Your Parents From Fraud

March is Fraud Prevention Month and it's essential that you have the 'talk' with your parents on internet and in-person safety.

My mom is 81 and incredibly tech savvy for her age. However, when she first joined Facebook and started surfing the internet, it was a steep learning curve on fraud prevention basics.

The fact is that scammers are singling out and targeted seniors.  Take romance scams for instance. A larger proportion of these victims tend to be seniors.  The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre states that victims lost over $20 million dollars last year but that's not the full story. It's estimated with this scam that only 1% of victims ever report the crime.  So, the damage is closer to an estimated $2 billion dollars!

Because seniors are home more often, still have a land line and answer it and are less tech savvy, they're much more vulnerable to being taken advantage of.  Here's some topics to discuss with your own parents or seniors in your life:

#1. Educate them about calls.  Phone spoofing is a real thing.  The screen display can make it look like a legitimate call when it’s not. Tell your parents it’s more than ok not to answer the phone, hang up if they suspect fraud and to never, ever give any personal or financial information over the phone. The CRA, RCMP or your bank or financial institution will never call you up asking for sensitive details.

#2. Fraudsters may try to sell them things door to door (siding, roofing, and donations). Help your parents understand that appearances can be deceiving. Never give cash to anyone at the door. If they are going to buy a service (i.e. lawn care, furnace cleaning, roof repair) to use a credit card.  If the salesperson is a fraudster, they won’t have merchant services.  Even if they do accept credit cards but then disappear or don’t provide what was promised, you have extra layers of protection when using your credit card.

#3. Less tech savvy. Teach your parents about romance scams, investment scams and too good to be true offers. Most importantly, that a picture or “friend” of someone could be a fraudster locally or even halfway around the world. Since your parent is likely surfing on their smart phone in the comfort of their home, they may let their guard down more than say if a stranger on the street started talking to them.

Make sure you introduce your parents to their banker and a Certified Financial Planner. If they have given sensitive info to a scammer or shared their PIN and debit card with a neighbour for example, they may be too embarrassed to reveal that to you. But they may feel more comfortable getting a financial pro to help them.

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