Tips to Protect Older Adults from Fraud


You receive an excited call from your parents telling you they just won a sweepstakes. All they have to do is send a thousand dollars to cover taxes and insurance in order to claim their prize.

Financial fraud targeting older adults is costly, widespread, and on the rise. In the lead-up to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, All Seniors Care reminds seniors, their friends, families, and caregivers to be alert for the signs of financial abuse and fraud. Here are some steps senior independent living residents can take to avoid scams targeting older adults.

How To Protect Older Adults from Financial Fraud and Scams

Aging adults are an especially vulnerable population when it comes to financial scams. In an article published by the Government of Saskatchewan on June 2, 2023, FCAA Executive Director of the Securities Division Dean Murrison said that, “Twenty-nine per cent of Canadians know a senior who has been impacted by financial abuse.”

In fact, the number of seniors falling victim to fraud scams has continued to increase over the last three years and so have the dollar losses, data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) shows.

Older adults are often targeted because of the nature of their assets, and financial fraud can have a much greater impact on them. But how does this happen? And what can you do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from financial scams?

Common Scams That Older Adults Need to Watch Out For

Knowing how to spot the signs of financial fraud can reduce your risk of being taken advantage in the digital age. Here are 8 common scams to watch out for:

1. Romance scams

Initiated on dating or social media sites, scammers build relationships over time before asking for large sums of money. Often, these fake “friends” and “lovers” can be overseas, making them especially difficult to track. They say they can’t video chat for technical reasons, but it’s because a video call would reveal that they aren’t who they say they are.

2. Grandchild scams

Impersonating a relative, often a grandchild, the fraudster phones in a panic saying they’re in trouble and need money sent immediately. The phone is then handed to their “attorney” or “representative” before you can clearly recognize the voice. Often the fraudster will say “Don’t tell my parents,” and “You’re the only one who can help.”

3. Computer software or virus scams

A pop-up ad or email says your computer has been hacked and demands payment from you. Once you engage, they use extreme pressure tactics to push for more funds or gift cards.

4. Government agency scams

The scammer impersonates someone from the Canada Revenue Agency or another government agency, demanding payment or a transfer of funds so you can avoid a penalty or jail time.

5. Sweepstakes scams

Scammers claim you won a lottery or other prize, but you must pay taxes or fees to claim the prize. It’s often a contest or lottery the victim never even entered.

6. Gift card scam

If someone posing as a legitimate source or business like the Government of Canada or your bank, asks you to pay for something by putting money on a gift card, it’s a scam. They say it’s urgent, may tell you to purchase several different gift cards, and then ask you to share the gift card number and pin. Once you do, your money is gone. Legitimate businesses will never request gift cards or prepaid cards in payment of a debt or bill. Read more on the Royal Bank of Canada website.

7. Phishing and smishing scams

Fraudsters send you an email and these messages copy the tone and logo of organizations you trust, and usually include a call to action. They take many shapes and forms, but the bottom line is that they want your personal details. Phishing imitating companies like Netflix or Shoppers Drug Mart are common.

8. Identity theft

Canadians are sharing more personal information online than ever before, which means there’s a lot more for cyber criminals to steal. Phishing messages are one of the most common causes of identity theft online. Never click on a suspicious message or share personal information with someone that you don’t know.

To help avoid becoming a victim of one of these scams, remember to think twice, ask questions and take your time if something doesn’t feel right. Visit the RCMP website for more important information and helpful resources about fraud prevention.

Preventative Steps That Seniors Can Take

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself. From the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority:

  • If someone emails, texts or calls asking for personal or banking information, do not provide the information.
  • If you receive “prize offers” out of the blue, do not reply.
  • If someone calls asking for money and they claim to be someone you know, do not give them the money until you verify their identity and the situation.
  • If someone randomly sends you a cheque, asks you to deposit it and then wire a specific amount of money to an address, do not cash the cheque.
  • Never wire money to a stranger and never accept money from a stranger.
  • If you receive an email or text with an attachment from people you do not know, do not open or download the attachments. Similarly, do not click on any of the links. They could be trying to gain access to your computer or phone.
  • Be cautious of someone offering to help you with your financial decisions, especially if they contact you unexpectedly.
  • Do not allow unknown or unverified individuals to remotely access your computer.
  • Add anti-virus software to your computer.
  • Read All Seniors Care’s Smartphone Safety Tips for Seniors.

What To Do If Your Senior Loved One Falls Victim to Fraud

If you’re a loved one falls victim to fraud, immediately call his or her bank and/or credit company, cancel any debit or credit cards linked to the stolen account, and reset the personal identification number(s). If you or someone you know is a victim of a fraud, contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or toll-free at 1-888-495-8501. If a financial loss did not occur, still report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

In addition to protecting personal accounts after experiencing fraud abuse, remember that financial fraud can be a traumatic event.

Many older people struggle with the stigma of being scammed. They are too embarrassed or ashamed to be open about the experience. This makes it important that loved ones and caregivers be available to listen if they do decide to talk:

  • Take a nonjudgmental approach.
  • Encourage them to have self-compassion.
  • Let them know that even the most vigilant people can find themselves in these types of situations.

Teach Seniors About Online Safety

Great senior care centres like All Seniors Care regularly host seminars and classes that educate older adults about the hazards of the digital world. With groups like Tech Savvy Seniors, we teach how to use smartphones, and how to connect with people online and on social media in a safe way.  Similarly, for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2023, many ASC senior living centres are hosting law enforcement and other agencies to teach residents about common scams and the steps that they can take to protect themselves.

If you’re interested in learning more about our various communities across Canada, explore our website. You will find answers to important questions like what are assisted living costs and what is the best care option for someone with dementia. Click here to contact us and learn more about our senior housing in Regina, and retirement apartments in Whitby, as well as new senior living apartments around Canada.


Writer  – Julianna McLeod

Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.

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