Many people are understandably concerned about their health and well-being during these times of uncertainty. Unfortunately, fraudsters are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to trick the public, with seniors being most vulnerable. It is becoming difficult to identify fraudulent activities from legitimate ones with new technology, so it is important to stay aware and take precautions to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Route 65 spoke with Seniors First BC about increases in frauds and scams during COVID-19, and how seniors can stay safe. Seniors First BC works to prevent elder abuse and to assist and support older adults who are or may be abused, and those whose rights have been violated.
What are the most common COVID-19 frauds and scams?
According to Seniors First BC, the six most common COVID-19 scams targeting the public are phone calls, text messages, phishing (fraudulent) emails, door-to-door canvassing, fake charities or websites, and social media and online shopping.
What should I do if a fraud or scam is suspected?
Seniors First BC recommends not responding back to any attempted communications and always take precautions. Do not answer the door if you are not expecting a visitor or package, ensure you are purchasing from reputable websites, and do your research before shopping online. Do not click on website pop-ups and close the page immediately if one appears on your screen.
How can fraudulent activity be identified?
Official organizations will not send threats, errors or warning messages. They will explain a situation in a reasonable and calm manner, will not demand the immediate resolution of a problem or a speedy payment, and will never give you a reason to panic unnecessarily.
Scammers have ways of making themselves appear extremely legitimate. They may impersonate well-known organizations, taking advantage of official symbols or logos. They may even pretend to be your bank or the police. Seniors First BC recommends keeping calm and reviewing the situation. Ask yourself: how would legitimate organizations behave with their customers or the public?
How can I protect myself from scammers?
Never give out personal information such as credit card numbers, banking information, passwords or social insurance numbers, unless you have contacted someone for services and verified their identity first.
If in doubt, research before providing money or any personal information. Scammers will often tell you not to call family members or the police but to deal only with them. It is important not to listen to this advice. Reach out to a family member, trusted friend or call your local police department if you are concerned.
How do I report fraudulent activity?
Suspected frauds and scams can be reported to:
– The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at antifraudcentre.ca or 1-888-495-8501
– Your local police department by filing a non-emergency report (do not call 911)
– Your local bank/financial institution and credit card company
– The National Credit Bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit reports (Equifax Canada 1-800-465-7166 or TransUnion Canada 1-800-663-9980)
– The National Do-Not-Call List at lnnte-dncl.gc.ca or 1-866-580-3625
Where can I learn more?
Visit Seniors First BC’s Frauds and Scams Resource List to learn more about COVID-19 frauds and scams.
Connect with Seniors First BC
Seniors First BC operates the Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL), a BC-wide program with trained intake workers ready to talk to you in confidence about abusive situations of any kind involving older adults. Seniors First BC also provides free legal services to older adults age 55+ who cannot afford a lawyer.
To connect with Seniors First BC for the SAIL line or to book legal services, call 604-437-1940 or toll-free at 1-866-437-1940, available 7 days a week (excluding holidays) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Language interpretation is available Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
TTY Teletype for the deaf who have access to TTY equipment: 604-428-3359 or toll-free at 1-855-306-1443.