Elderly Ontario residents at significant risk of frauds and scams: Police


Published February 29, 2024 at 9:21 am

elderly canadians at risk of scams police

Anyone can become the victim of a scam, but elderly residents might be at increased risk.

Earlier this month, OPP officers held an Emergency-Grandparent Scam seminar in Huron East to demonstrate the nature of scam-related crimes and, more importantly, how they can be avoided. Due to the continued exploitation of the elderly at the hands of scammers, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) forces have launched this initiative to further educate those in the province in an effort to protect its most vulnerable.

“We can’t arrest our way out of cybercrime, and the biggest fraud prevention technique is spreading information and awareness,” OPP Detective Sergent John Armit told insauga.com.  

Armit —who is currently operating in secondment with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) as a law enforcement liaison officer — has not only immense insight into fraud-related crimes across Ontario but also nationwide. 

“We’ve seen this massive jump in cyber-related frauds where globally organized fraud groups now have technology where they can reach out to anyone in the world,” says Armit. 

According to Armit, the most prevalent scams impacting the elderly, apart from grandparent scams, are false investment and romance scams. Statistically, only five to 10 per cent of fraud victims report a fraud-related incident to authorities or the CAFC, and allegedly, when it comes to elderly victims, they seldom even tell their families.

“The demographic that these fraudsters are looking for, when it comes to these romance schemes, is middle-aged people and elderly folks who are widowed or divorced,” says Armit.

“So we see people, older individuals who are getting muddled up in these scams and they typically don’t tell their family members what’s happening. They beg, borrow and steal whatever funds they can to send to their ‘romantic interest’ on the other side of the world, and the results can be devastating.” 

The data bears out Armit’s observations.

According to the RCMP, the CAFC received 70,878 reports of scams in 2022, with 37,047 of those reports coming from victims of mass marketing fraud. The CAFC also received 19,560 reports of identification fraud. The RCMP says the most commonly reported scams that year were investment scams (particularly those involving cryptocurrency fraud), romance scams and phishing scams (which involve tricking victims into giving up sensitive information, such as bank info or their social insurance number).

The CAFC says that in 2022, $554 million was lost to fraud in Canada.

The major pitfalls that prevent education on digital scams is the technology itself, as Armit explains, elderly individuals don’t have the tech-savviness or IT know-how to spot obvious traps, resulting in fraudsters getting away scot-free with the simple click of a link. 

In response to the advancement of scams that target the elderly, Armit explains that numerous global organizations are sharing information to catch these would-be scammers before they strike, such as Interpol and Europol. As for the homefront, local law enforcement is in constant communication with the CAFC, CRA and the RCMP to ensure that any fraud-related information stays in constant circulation within Canadian authorities. 

“We work with the federal government quite a bit, daily, but the amount of calls police services are getting for these kinds of crimes alongside reports to the anti-fraud center are staggering, so any resources, assistance, or changes to legislation are really important,” says Armit. 

Armit then mentions that any at-risk individuals should keep an eye out for anti-fraud seminars in their area and look into the resources provided on the CAFC’s website.

As for other advice, the CAFC’s website says residents should be vigilant and never be afraid to just say no to any request that seems suspicious or unusual.

“Watch out for urgent pleas that play on your emotions,” the CAFC says on its website.

It also says everyone should verify all information before taking action on a request from someone who claims to represent a legitimate organization.

“Always verify that the organization you’re dealing with is legitimate before you take any other action,” the website reads.

“If you’ve received a call or other contact from a family member in trouble, talk to other family members to confirm the situation.”

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