Avoiding Scams Targeting Seniors

March is Fraud Prevention Month and it’s an important time to remember that banks work hard to protect their customers from fraud. There are also many simple but important steps that you can take to protect yourself. As part of its Fraud Prevention Month efforts for this year, the Canadian Bankers Association is focusing on seniors. While anyone can be a target of a fraud or scam, there are some criminals who specifically target seniors. Here are two of the more common scams.

This article was published by CBC Consumer Tips on March 1st, 2013.  To see this article and other related articles on CBC Consumer Tips website, please click here

The Grandparent Scam

Criminals have set their sights on seniors with grandchildren using a particularly malicious trick known as the “grandparent scam”.  A senior will receive a phone call from someone who starts the conversation with, “Grandma? Do you know who this is?” The victim, thinking it’s one of their grandchildren, will respond with, “Yes, I know it’s you (name of grandchild).” The caller will then start using this name to gain credibility with the victim.

The caller will claim to be in trouble and will request money right away. Often they’ll say they were in a car accident with a rental car or they are under arrest and in jail in another city or country. The victim, wanting to help, will withdraw funds from their bank account and wire money to the “grandchild”. The money will be sent through a money transfer service where the criminal can then pick it up at any location across the world.

Fortunately there are a few simple steps that you can take to avoid falling victim to this scam. For example, never offer information to the caller. If they prompt you with a question like, “Do you know who this is?” simply say no and have them tell you. And ask questions that only your grandchild could answer so you know who you’re talking to. Also, never wire money to someone under uncertain conditions. It is nearly impossible to recover or trace money that has been wired.

Click on the video below to learn how to protect yourself from the grandparent scam from the Canadian Bankers Association’s Director of Security, William Crate:

Phoney Bank Inspector Scam

In this scam, criminals will impersonate a bank investigator and trick you into providing your own money to “aid” a criminal investigation. A victim will receive a phone call from someone who claims to be a bank inspector, bank manager or police investigator. They will explain that the bank is investigating a series of fraud cases that have been committed by staff at your branch and ask you to withdraw a large sum of money from your account that will be inspected and used as evidence as part of the investigation.

After you withdraw the money, you’ll hand over the money to the phoney bank inspector and then be told to go home and wait for a phone call confirming that the money has been re-deposited into your account. Unfortunately, no call comes, the money is not returned and the “inspector” is never heard from again.

It is important to remember that neither your bank nor a police investigator will ever request that you assist in an undercover investigation or ask you to withdraw money from your account. If you receive such a suspicious call, hang up and call police. Never give out personal bank information over the phone unless you have called your bank and they ask you questions to verify your identity.

More information about both of these scams as well as other types of frauds can be found at www.cba.ca/fraud.

For more fraud prevention tips from the Canadian Bankers Association or to sign up to receive new tips by e-mail please visit the Fraud and Security section of the Canadian Bankers Association website.


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