Emerging Scams Targeting the Elderly

Older couple talking to advisor
Every day scammers think of new ways to defraud Canadians out of their hard-earned savings and retirement fund through deceitful and hard to spot scams.  Since many incidents go unreported, the true extent of the financial loss is unknown.  However, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (FCAC) loss from fraud and cybercrimes amounted to $530 million in Canada in 2022 – unfortunately, a large amount was due to scams targeting the elderly. So, why are there so many financial scams targeting the elderly?  While people of all ages can fall victim to fraud, elderly Canadians remain a target because scammers perceive them to have more wealth, easier to access, more trusting and less knowledgeable about navigating online. Knowledge and vigilance are your best defense against scammers.  In this article, we’ll look at the latest scams targeting the elderly. We’ll explore the CRA scam, predatory lending in Canada, debit card scams, the Amazon phishing email in Canada. We’ll also look at the red flags to look out for that could warn you of elder financial scams and ways that you can protect yourself and others from these scams.

Carbon tax rebate scam

This is one of the most recent scams against the elderly, having started to appear in 2024. The people carrying out this financial scam send a text message supposedly from the CRA, telling victims about the Canada Carbon Tax Rebate and including a link to click on to receive this payment. With this financial scam, when someone clicks on the link, they’ll be asked for personal information that the scammers will then use to commit financial fraud. The CRA says it will never send taxpayers links to receive payment, so if you ever receive this kind of text or email message, do not respond to it.

CRA Scam Alerts

TheCRA text or voicemail scam has been around for some time and can be quite convincing and scary. The CRA scam text will say that you owe the Canada Revenue Agency a significant amount of money, and if you don’t pay it within a very short period of time you will be arrested. The CRA scam voicemails and phone calls can be extremely aggressive, which is why this can be one of the more common scams that target the elderly. Scammers feel they can more easily bully older people into paying them money. Threats include arrest, deportation, a lien on assets and bank accounts, and other undisclosed “legal consequences” until you pay what you “owe”. Victims are often threatened and told to make payment via e-transfer, gift cards or even Bitcoin. Sometimes they will ask for your credit card information and PIN number. The CRA says that if you receive any calls from aggressive people claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, you should hang up immediately. The CRA will never ask for payment with Bitcoin or gift cards, and you should never give credit card information to anyone calling you unexpectedly.

Debit card scams

This financial scam is particularly convincing because of the information the scammers share with their victims. With these scams that target the elderly, the victim receives a text message warning of fraudulent activity on their bank account. The text message also includes personal details, such as recent bank account transactions. The scammers try to persuade their victims to reveal their PIN number and place their debit card in their mailbox to “protect their account” and promising to leave new uncompromised cards. The scammers then pick up the card and often use it to withdraw thousands of dollars. If you’re targeted by these types of financial scams, do not call the number in the text message and never leave your card in your mailbox or give your PIN number to anyone. Instead, call your bank directly on the number found on the back of your debit card and tell them about the message that you’ve received.

Amazon phishing email scam in Canada

This is one of the more convincing types of financial scams currently being utilized by scammers. There are actually two types of Amazon scams: the fake order issue scam and the fake account issue scam. In the fake order issue scam, people are contacted by text, email or phone call, saying that there is an urgent unauthorized order on their Amazon account. In the fake account issue scam, scammers impersonate Amazon employees, telling the victims that their account is about to be suspended due to unauthorized activity. In both cases, the scammers ask for personal, payment, and account information, which they’ll use for identity theft purposes. Amazon says that anyone receiving these messages should check their order history on amazon.ca or the Amazon app, and call Amazon’s customer service line directly which is available 24/7.

Latest Phishing text messages and emails

These financial scams involve a text message or email claiming to be from a trustworthy company, such as a bank. If victims take the bait the scammers will try and get their personal information, bank account details, and passwords from them. There are cases of the elderly being scammed by clicking on a link in an email or downloading an attachment. By clicking on the link, spyware or malware can be downloaded onto the computer, giving the scammers access to their bank accounts. To avoid these types of elder financial scams, you should never click on any links or download anything from messages you weren’t expecting. If you ever receive texts or emails saying that there is some sort of emergency or you’re at risk from fraudsters, call the company in question directly, using a phone number that you trust.

Tech support scams

These are among the most current financial scams that can be very costly, and often target the elderly due to the perception that they are less tech savvy. A pop-up message appears on a computer screen or phone saying that the device is damaged and needs tech support to fix it. With these scams, victims call the phone number on the screen and the scammers then demand payment for the “service” they are providing or get remote access to the computer and break into their victims’ bank accounts. Some victims have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to this financial scam targeting the elderly.

Investment scams

These can be considered elder abuse financial scams, as the scammers pose as trustworthy financial advisors but abuse their victims’ trust to defraud them. They’ll call or phone unannounced and offer investments that they claim are low risk and high return. Many will offer supposedly lucrative investment bonds and other investment “opportunities” that simply don’t exist. The scammers pocket the money, and their victims often lose tens of thousands of dollars.

How to avoid scams in Canada

Canadians are getting scammed in increasing numbers every year. The most effective way to protect yourself, your friends, and your family is to educate yourself and be aware of any type of financial scam. You can help protect your loved ones from scams by providing them with a checklist of things to do when an unexpected situation arises. This checklist should include the following tips:
  • Hang up when someone calls you that you don’t know and ignore aggressive voicemails claiming to be from the CRA.
  • Don’t click on any links in texts or emails from people you don’t know.
  • Never download anything from websites you’ve been directed to.
  • Don’t sign anything without consulting a trusted friend or family member.
  • Never tell anyone your PIN, passwords or bank account information.
  • Never leave credit or debit cards in your mailbox and call the bank or organization directly if you think there may be fraudulent activity on your account.

Reporting financial scams

If you think you’ve been targeted by financial scammers, you should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or via its fraud reporting system. This organization tracks fraudulent activity and helps make the public aware of scams as they appear. Alternatively, you could report it to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, whose mandate is to improve the online safety of all Canadians. If you believe a scam could present an immediate threat to a friend or loved one, or to their finances, you should contact your local police department.

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