Seniors are one of the populations most affected by coronavirus pandemic and now they are also the target of scammers attempting to prey on people while they are vulnerable.
The government is working to support people who are most impacted by the virus but scammers are taking advantage of this by imitating authorities to collect money from seniors. A warning has already been issued by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) about texts being sent by scammers, regarding the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
Hundreds of reports have been sent to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) about people's money, or even their personal identification being stolen, according to City News.
“We are seeing something we’ve never seen before,” noted Laura Tamblyn-Watts, CEO of CanAge. “It’s the perfect storm of targeting our vulnerable people.”
CanAge is Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization. It says that 92 percent of seniors aren’t at long-term care facilities—but are living at home. One in five are victims of elder abuse—including scams and frauds.
Tamblyn-Watts says financial abuse of seniors was a billion dollar industry even prior to the outbreak. Many become repeat victims after they are scammed once as they are added to a “sucker list.”
“If you do get caught in a fraud or scam, first of all, don’t feel bad about it, it happens to everybody,” she said.
“If you get caught, the information about who you are and what they found out about you is likely to be sold to other criminals and fraudsters. And what we see is people being targeted 5, 10, 20 times a day.”
Tamblyn-Watts said scams and frauds are the type of elder abuse that is least reported. She added that agencies are seeing an increase of 10 percent in fraudulent calls. This is making it extremely difficult for the few elder abuse services, such as Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario.
“We urgently need the Minister for Seniors in Ontario to do [a] type of scale-up funding for Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario and the phone line they run, to just begin to deal with the issues that are coming in the door,” said Tamblyn-Watts. “It’s important to remember we’re just at the beginning of this, and so we’re expecting it to get worse, not better.”
The CFAC saw 59,003 reports of fraud in 2019, where $133 million was lost to 22,919 victims. In just the last month, 2,317 people lost more than $8.3 million.
“Phishing remains the number one report, in particular we’re seeing mass messages going out asking people to click on links. We’re also seeing a variety of merchandise scams, offering test kits, free face masks, hand sanitizers. [The] sort of items in high demand,” said Jeff Thompson, a Senior RCMP Intelligence Analyst at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
The Anti-Fraud Centre made a list of the main types of scams related to coronavirus.
Scammers claiming to offer things like free masks while victims are told they only need to pay shipping.
Emails being sent that pretend to be connected to Employment Insurance claims asking victims to verify information.
Emailers pretending to be from groups like the World Health Organization (WHO), asking for donations in the fight against coronavirus.
Victims receiving emails coming from stores like Shopper Drug Mart, asking them to complete a survey for a special offer. The emails contain links asking for financial information for delivery fees.
The CAFC has reported scammers offering Canadians jobs and asking for banking information and other personal information before they begin the job.
CAFC has also received reports of emails of recipients' friends asking for financial help after claiming they have coronavirus. They are claiming to need the money for medical reasons.