Protecting yourself and your loved ones against financial elder abuse and senior scams
June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It’s a day to draw attention to the unique challenges our aging population faces in Canada and world-wide. Challenges that include one of the darker sides of aging: Fraud and other forms of financial elder abuse.
An equal opportunity crime, fraud targets individuals in all demographics. Governments and businesses, large and small, can also fall victim of fraudulent actions with a devastating impact—from financial losses to reputational damage.
According to the Government of Canada—and although anyone can be a victim of fraud—seniors are more vulnerable and targeted more than other age groups. Some of the reasons for this include that seniors tend to be more trusting, are more frequently home to answer the phone or open the door, and may not have friends or family living close by to consult with. In addition, the higher rates of diminished mental capacity among seniors can also add to their vulnerability.
There are some major types of scams that seniors should look out for, including:
- Grandparent scam: Con artists will call pretending to be a grandchild or another close relative or loved one, claiming they need money to get out of some kind of trouble
- Authority figure scam: Scammers who pose as an authority figure such as a police officer, lawyer or tax auditor from the CRA
- Telemarketing scam: Phone and email scams involving phony charities and sometimes pyramid schemes
- Website and email scams: Con artists create spoof website pages or emails that mimic real sites and brands
Seniors should be encouraged, whenever possible, to answer phone calls and emails only if they recognize the caller or sender. The old adage, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” has never been more relevant.
Fraud perpetrated by strangers is just one type of elder abuse seniors are dealing with, financial elder abuse takes many forms and is a growing problem in Canada. Often the abuse is committed by family members or close friends, and can range from the seemingly innocent, like an adult child charging their groceries to their parent’s credit card, to the more deliberate, such as a new boyfriend trying to get included in a Will. In fact, misuse of a power of attorney for property is one of the most common means of committing elder financial abuse.
Many seniors may choose to appoint their children as the attorney for property by default, but in many cases, one’s offspring may not be ideally positioned to oversee their parent’s finances. For example, if the child is not adept at managing their own finances, should they be in charge of their parent’s finances?
Fortunately, proper planning can help protect you. This includes having a Will and power of attorney for property, and appointing someone you trust that is also knowledgeable, or a trust company, as your attorney for property. Appointing the “right” attorney for property, can play a key role in helping to prevent financial abuse.
This short video and this article will help you get familiar with some of the most common financial scams targeting seniors, and the importance of having the proper aforementioned legal documents in place. There are many other great resources (including provincial government websites and bank websites) available to help seniors and their families learn about—and protect themselves from—fraud and financial abuse.
I encourage you to explore these resources and share with family and friends to learn more about protecting seniors from financial abuse.