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B.C. seniors are falling victim to these four scams

A 'grandparent scam' aims to scare a grandparent into thinking their grandchild is in trouble.
The BC RCMP says the province's seniors population needs to be especially aware of evolving risks of fraud, especially online and by telephone.

The BC RCMP federal policing prevention and engagement team says seniors are increasingly being targeted by sophisticated and evolving frauds and scams.

“Based on recent reports from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and a rise in financial crime complaints to police, it’s evident that criminals continue targeting B.C. seniors through several forms of scams,” RCMP wrote in a May 17 statement.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported in 2021 it received 106,875 reports of fraud and is on pace for a similar figure in 2020 (29,294 to April 30). However, while in 2021 $380 million was lost in reported fraud cases, to April 30, 2022 $163.9 million has been lost (which is an annual pace of $491.7 million).

And much of the money is never recovered; in 2021, just $3.35 million was recovered with the centre's assistance.

The RCMP team has identified, via the statement, four types of scams that are presented to seniors in various forms. The scams may seek money immediately or personal information in order to conduct an even greater fraud.

Emergency or grandparent scam

In this scam, 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 scam

This scam often uses 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.

Bank investigator scam

Criminals use so-called 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. They request details about the victim’s credit card, bank account, or online banking login information.

Prize scam

This scam is said to be especially common for targeting seniors as 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.

According to the the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, doing the following can prevent scams:

  • Don’t be afraid to say no or hang up on a caller.
  • Verify organizations you believe to be dealing with
  • Don’t provide personal information over the phone
  • Be wary of upfront fees
  • Protect your computer by updating passwords and being cautious of email solicitations and pop-up links

Police recommend contacting your local police agency if you or a friend or family member have been a target of a suspected scam. Another option is to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or online by way of the Fraud Reporting System.

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