Scams reach all corners of the community by phone and online, no matter the age or place the unsuspecting target lives.
Sadly, more and more seniors are falling victim to these ongoing frauds, including several locals. Hardly a week goes by without the Trail Times receiving a call about a person, usually a senior, being targeted, sometimes successfully, by an unknown con artist devoid of honour and compassion, only after a quick buck.
According to the Canadian Department of Justice, approximately 10 per cent of Canadian seniors are victims of consumer fraud each year, which is likely a conservative figure as anecdotally, many frauds go unreported. That said, more than 369,000 scams and financial abuse cases targeting the elderly are reported to authorities every year, and most experts agree that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In response to an ever-increasing number of seniors being targeted by frauds and scams, the BC RCMP Federal Policing Prevention and Engagement (FPPE) team launched a proactive community outreach campaign to prevent seniors from falling victim to the vast array of sophisticated and constantly evolving scams.
Based on recent reports from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and a rise in financial crime complaints to police, law enforcement says it’s evident that criminals continue targeting B.C. seniors through several forms of scams such as the emergency, grandparent, extortion, bank investigator, and prize scams.
For emergency or grandparent scams, suspects contact seniors, claiming that their family member or grandchild was involved in an incident, or criminally charged with an offence, and that a fee or fine would be required for the release of the family member.
Extortion scams often use recorded messages where the fraudsters claim to be a representative of a federal government entity, or a major organization, and that the victim’s social insurance number or other personal information has been linked to a crime.
The scammers then demand a payment with the threat of arrest or imprisonment, and may request other personal information that could be used for further identity theft.
Criminals use bank investigator scams to contact the victim claiming to be a financial institution, or a credit card company representative who is investigating unauthorized activity on their account, and request details about the victim’s credit card, bank account, or online banking login information.
With the prize scam being especially common for targeting seniors, the scammer informs the victims that they have won a lottery or sweepstake, even though they had not entered to win, or purchased a ticket at any point. The victim is then told to make a required upfront prize collection, or tax payment in order for the winnings to be released.
With numerous other forms of scams targeting seniors, the FPPE team is continuously working to reach out to, and connect with seniors and members of the community at large to create awareness and provide strategies for protecting oneself against financial loss.
The BC RCMP FPPE works closely with other RCMP federal policing units, external partner agencies, and members of the community to identify emerging crime trends, and takes a preventative approach by providing information and resources that would assist in identifying, and taking measures to avoid becoming victims of existing and emerging criminal threats.
As part of a recent community outreach initiative to B.C. seniors, BC RCMP FPPE’s Cpl. Vinh Ngo and the Bank of Canada’s Western Regional Representative, Mr. Farid Salji attended the 2022 United Way Provincial Summit on Aging held in April, and participated with a crime prevention exhibition that provided the attendees with resources aimed at informing seniors about fraud trends and counterfeit currency scams.
Cpl. Ngo, in collaboration with Mr. Salji, has been coordinating anti-fraud webinars online throughout the pandemic, and more recently in-person seminars, for various community groups.
“Although BC RCMP federal policing is involved in combating the most serious criminal threats facing Canadians, we also work hard to stay connected to our communities and take a proactive approach to preventing crime by providing education and resources directly to the public,” says Superintendent Anick Pasqua, Officer in Charge of the BC RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime – Operational Support program (FSOC – OSG).
While criminals continue to devise new approaches to target seniors and other vulnerable sectors, the dedicated members of the BC RCMP Federal Policing Prevention and Engagement are relentless in their pursuit to identify, and prevent crime through actively engaging with partners and community members.
For more information on frauds and scams, visit the BC RCMP Frauds and Scams resource page or go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.
Anyone who has been a target of a suspected scam, is encouraged to contact their local police agency, and report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1.888.495.8501, or online by way of the Fraud Reporting System.