Helping seniors recognize frauds and scams 0
If you're a senior, it is important to know the signs of a scam or fraud.
In a seminar at Heritage Manor in Pembroke recently, members of the Rotary Club of West Ottawa outlined the risks of scams and frauds to a group of approximately 75 seniors.
Rotary members Bud McGinnis and Linda Flynn have made more than 400 presentations to seniors since the program started in 2002.
"We're trying to fraud-proof seniors primarily," Mr. McGinnis said, adding the program is unique because it is seniors educating seniors. "The more education we can get out there the better off we're going to be."
The speakers outlined many ways frauds or scams can be committed, including by mail-in offers, by door-to-door salespeople and by the Internet.
"These people are full-time professionals and they're good at what they do," he said. "In contrast, we are only part-time amateurs."
According to a study released by the Competition Bureau of Canada, there were approximately one million victims of fraud nationally in 2007. In total, frauds and scams cost consumers $450 million, they said.
Besides a financial loss, becoming a victim of a scam or a fraud can be embarrassing for many people, causing guilt and shame. The speakers said nine out of 10 people don't report their experience to police because of embarrassment.
"As soon as we realize we've been conned by a scam artist we need to tell someone," Mr. McGinnis said.
Seniors are often targeted, they said, because they tend to be trusting and don't want to seem rude. Seniors are also more accessible because many are retired, and are thought to have money during retirement.
To help seniors protect themselves, the speakers outlined "red flags" to look out for. The red flags included scams that required you to send money away to receive a prize; if someone comes to your door suggesting work that could be done on your home and asks for a down payment; or an investment advertisement that promises to double your money in a certain period of time. Most of all, Mr. McGinnis said, "If it sounds to too good to be true, it is."
To emphasize their point, the Rotary members performed skits where they showed how to avoid being taken advantage of.
One skit showed a person receiving a scratch and win ticket by mail, with instructions to call a 1- 900 number to claim a prize. With the advice of a neighbour, the person decided it might be a scam.
Afterwards, Mr. McGinnis explained that dialing a 1-900 number could result in major surcharges for the caller, even upwards of $100.
The speakers also touched on identity theft. For example, Mr. McGinnis said it is important for people to keep their Social Insurance Number, passport and birth certificate in a safe place and not to carry them around in a wallet.
"We have to do all we can to avoid being taken by these con artists," he added.
To request a seminar for an organization, please contact the Rotary members at (613) 564-5555.