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Protecting Our Vulnerable Seniors from Scams
By Chris Treftlin

Let me introduce you to Sergeant John Keating (ret).  After 31 years of policing in a major urban area of our country he decided to turn his considerable law enforcement training, experience, and skill to assisting seniors and their families.  Specifically, assisting them in overcoming the deluge of scams and frauds that is coming at them on an almost daily basis.  Before the pandemic hit, John was called on as a leading speaker across Canada, the U.S., and internationally.  Further, with his extensive investigative background, he was called upon to investigate cases of senior’s abuse.  I will write about senior’s abuse in the next edition.

“In Canada it is estimated that at least 10% of all seniors have been victims of some form of fraud.” States John Keating.  “Similar stats exist for our neighbor to the south”, “U.S. seniors are not safe from the fraudster.  Tracking from the F.B.I. shows that the average dollar value of fraud is $9,175.  That is the average.  Some are less, and some are much more.”

John further explained, the financial loss for an individual senior is a crime.  The other, more profound outcome of fraud for a senior comes in the form of deep phycological damage.  “I have seen clients so harmed by this crime that they stop functioning socially.  Outgoing and active people become isolated and afraid. It is really sad.”  

There are too many scams to count, or can be listed in this article, but John did point out a few that are particularly pointed at seniors.  There is the grandparent scam. “In this scam” he said, “a call comes in to the unsuspecting senior and the caller claims to be a grandchild in trouble.  The confused senior is not sure what is going on and gets so concerned about the so-called grandchild they end up sending money to the fraudster in the form of a wire transfer”.  “This is untraceable” states John, “and as long as they keep sending the money the fraudster keeps asking”

Another scam comes in the form of a door-to-door solicitation. John describes it like this. “Here a couple, man and woman, have done their homework and know the person living in the home is a single elderly woman.  They tell the lady of the house they are in the area and fixing eaves, cleaning windows, whatever.  The senior develops trust with the fraudster and overpays for poor work or no work.  In some cases, the fraudster tells the senior that they have a special “No Tax Deal”, only to come by later and tell the senior that the Canadian Revenue Service audited the books, and he must go back to all his customers and collect the tax that should have been collected.  This is the second sting on the same scam”

Computer financial scams are infamous for their sophistication. John states “They look like something right from the bank.”  Here they ask for all your personal, banking, and credit information in order to avert some horrible outcome.  Delete it immediately.  The bank never does its business like this.

These are three, there are many, many more.  I have included a link to you to review a detailed list of scams to be on the lookout for.

In the examples we have seen calls, door-to-door, and email scams.  These are the ways the fraudster gets to his/her victim.  So, the easiest way to avoid the fraudster is not to answer the phone, door, or email unless you know who is calling, knocking, or emailing.  “It may feel like you are a bit of a prisoner in your own home.” Said John.  “It is more about keeping yourself safe”.  So, get Call Display on your phone and do not answer the call unless you know who it is.  Get a “No Solicitation” sign for your front door.  Lastly, when it comes to email, John says “Be careful if you click because it might be a trick.”

JOHN KEATING can be reached at