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Fraud: If it sounds too good to be true, it is

Seniors embarrassed to report scams


Fraud is a crime that threatens every Canadian, regardless of their education, age or income. From January 2014 to December 2017, Canadians lost more than $405 million to fraudsters.

While scam artists continue to use traditional techniques by telephone, email and in person, they have also latched on to social media platforms to target millennials and Generation Z.

Unfortunately, fraudsters continue to target seniors. In 2017, Canadians aged 60 to 79 lost an estimated $94 million to various scams.

Seniors often don’t report fraud because they are embarrassed that it happened to them. They may have only lost a small amount of money and don’t want to go through the hassle of reporting it.

When a scam is not reported to the police or the media, the scammers can continue to prey on consumers.

Recently a Sudbury widow received a letter and phone calls about her late partner’s overdue internet bill.

“The scammer sounded very official and told me my late husband owned $200 for internet services. It sounded legit. They even have a website. But I am the one who arranged for our internet services from another provider. I eventually hung up,” says the widow. “I never heard from them again.

“The scammer obviously reads obituaries and uses information to find contact information. That’s easy to do with Google.”

The Canadian Better Business Bureau is seeing a growing number of complaints related to cyber scams.

Phishing is a scam and, like its namesake, it has a hook: an email that looks and sounds legitimate, but isn’t.

That message looks like it is coming from a bank or a service provider or even from someone close to you. If you take the bait, you are redirected to a website that looks normal but that is in fact a copy made by malicious “phishermen.”

Thinking that you are on the real website, you are not surprised or even suspicious when they ask for personal information like your username, password, account number or social insurance number. Once you provide personal information, they can use it to commit fraud.

In 2016, more than 800 Canadians fell victim to the “emergency” scam and lost more than a million dollars in total. If you receive an email or phone call from someone claiming to be a friend or relative in urgent need of cash to get out of trouble, it’s probably a scam.

For example, they will call and pretend to be their victim’s grandchild. The scammer will ask for money to be sent immediately so that they can get out of trouble. The “grandchild” will insist on keeping this a secret so their parents don’t find out.

The victim will be asked to send money through a money transfer service, pre-paid gift or credit cards in hopes of helping their grandchild. Unfortunately, the victim gets scammed and the money goes to the fraudster.

Subscription traps, sometimes referred to as Continuity Scams, can take various forms. They can appear as an advertisement featured on your favourite social media site, a referral from a friend (on Facebook, for example), a fake “survey” that pops up on your computer while you’re online on another website, or a call from a telemarketer. No matter the form, they will always offer you a “free” trial or purchase of a product, while all you have to do is simply pay the shipping and handling fees using your credit card. If consumers agree to this, they get signed up to an ongoing subscription service with unexpected charges. Contacting the company will direct you towards their online terms and conditions, routinely buried in fine print. Unfortunately, by not returning the “free” product you ordered, you agreed to a monthly subscription of that product and authorized monthly charges on your credit card. Once, you are stuck in this situation, it is often extremely difficult to stop the charges.

The age-old saying, “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is” still applies today. No matter how sneaky fraudsters try to be, by keeping this in mind, you stand a better chance of warding off the bad guys. The best things in life may be free, but when you are asked for your credit card or personal information, it’s best to just say no.

Follow these tips to protect yourself:

  • Review all fine print and terms and conditions before making a purchase.
  • Google it to see if anybody has suggested the offer is a scam.
  • Beware of paid advertisements online. Paid banner ads are not always affiliated with the website you are viewing.
  • Before you send any funds or products, contact the person who requested the transfer in person or by telephone. Confirm that the request is legitimate.
  • Beware of unusual or irregular email requests.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • Review credit card statements regularly for unauthorized charges.

And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it


It’s extremely important to report fraud to the authorities. Complaints are one of the best ways to gather evidence and better protect consumers and businesses. If you think you’ve been the victim of fraud, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Competition Bureau or the RCMP.



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