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Wednesday, 04 January 2012 15:45

Swift Current seminar: Old and young can be victims of frauds and scams

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By Matthew Liebenberg — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It is a type of elder abuse that might not be so obvious, but a presentation created by the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism (SSM) warns frauds and scams perpetrated against seniors can be just as damaging.

SSM volunteer Kathy Lye provided an overview of the kinds of frauds and scams people fall victim to during a presentation at the Swift Current Library Dec. 12.

“We’re talking predominantly about seniors but this stuff is good for anybody,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are.”

The purpose of her presentation  was to provide participants with information that will help them to avoid financial and emotional devastation.

“It’s a sad reflection on society today,” she observed. “Unfortunately you’ve got to use caution. ... And I’m not trying to scare you, that’s just the way it is.”

Each participant received a copy of the publication Fraud cent$ for individuals that was developed by SSM to make seniors and others aware of potential problems.

“This is probably the best resource around right now,” Lye said about it. “The City of Regina Police Service use that book.”

Seniors are more vulnerable than others to fraud and scams because they are on a tighter budget.

“Some people, if they lose money to a fraud or a scam, that’s it,” she said. “They haven’t got income coming in to replace it, so it’s devastating.”

There are many “red flags” to indicate when something is wrong. It can include a stranger asking for the three digit security number on the back of your credit card or other private financial information.

Lye said it can be especially problematic to provide detail about one’s SIN card number to others.

“If it’s stolen, that’s the hardest card to replace. It can also be the biggest ticket item for identity theft.”

She warned not to give out a SIN number to get credit at stores.

“Start to walk out and see how fast they come back. Don’t give it out.”

A deal that sounds too good to be true probably means something is wrong. Other warning signs are if you must pay money to claim a prize, if there is pressure to make a decision or if a caller or sales person tries to overwhelm you with their excitement about an opportunity.

“If someone contacts you, either on the phone, at the door or wherever, don’t do business with them,” she said. “If you contact them, that’s a different situation. You know, or should know, who you’re contacting is genuine.”

She highlighted the so-called grandparent fraud, when someone will try to convince you to send a large sum of money to them.

“That’s hitting seniors big time,” she said. “Basically someone will phone in desperate need, maintaining they’re your grandchild. It can hit anyone and it’s believable enough that people are taken in by it.”

She referred to the difference between scams and frauds. In a scam, a con artist will take money from someone without technically breaking the law.

“Usually in a scam you get something, albeit not what you were expecting,” she explained.

A fraud is an illegal act that takes place when a con artist uses deception to take money from a person. People will often not report a fraud because they are embarrassed about what happened to them.

“Another big one is fear, especially for seniors,” she said.

Seniors are worried people might think they are losing their mind or their independence might be curtailed once others know what happened to them.

Con artists will try to mislead anybody, but women are more frequent targets. Widowed people are also targeted because they are often lonely. Other targets include people who have been defrauded before, Alzheimer patients, disabled people and immigrants.

“They target the weaker, but everyone can be a target,” she said. “No one is really immune.”

Among the many sources of information for con artists, she highlighted obituaries because it provides information about an entire family network.

“Never put an exact date of birth on an obituary,” she warned. “Another thing is, when you put in the paper where the service is going to be held, have someone sit at your house.”

She cautioned people to be careful about the kind of information they post about themselves on the internet.

“It’s an open book,” she said about Facebook. “Be very careful if you do use it.”

Identity theft is something no one might be completely protected against. She said a cheap shredder is an easy way to destroy personal information before it is discarded.

Lye suggested the ALERT method to prevent fraud: Ask questions, Listen carefully, Educate yourself, Refuse to be pressured, Tell someone or the authorities.

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