4 scams directed at seniors to beware of

November 3, 2015

Safeguarding seniors from fraud should be a family effort. Stay alert to these retirement scams and take action to prevent fraud by following these tips.

4 scams directed at seniors to beware of

1. Fake investment deals

These include foreign currency or property investments not regulated by Canada's provincial securities regulation and luxury retirement services, such as grand vacation packages or nonexistent timeshares. These offers are often conducted via telemarketing.

Action to take:

  • Don't give family phone numbers to just anyone. Opt out of public phone books using the National Do Not Call List (DNCL).
  • For questionable telemarketing offers, file a complaint with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
  • Advise seniors to be alert to psychological marketing tactics like instigating fear and using hooks like free, discounted, or limited offers meant to make seniors feel they will lose out if they don't listen or consider the offer.

2. Locked-in retirement account (LIRA) schemes

This scam is targeted at retirees who have Canada's LIRA accounts that cannot be withdrawn until retirement age. The scheme involves collection agents who refer retirees needing immediate cash to fraudulent financial marketers offering LIRA unlocking services in exchange for exorbitant fees and special power of attorney, enabling them to withdraw funds and run away with the money.

Action to take:

  • Inform seniors that Canada's provincial financial regulators offer special LIRA unlocking service free of charge as long as the owner passed the financial hardship criteria.

3. Health-related scams

These are non-essential medical products and services intended to rip off seniors, from nutrition supplements and energy boosters to wellness gadgets and even doctor visit gift certificates.

Action to take:

  • Advise seniors not to entertain requests for home visits from callers offering free medical checkups or health gadget demos. Ingenious scammers use these visits as an "established relationship" loophole to continue telemarketing.

4. Fake charity organizations

Bogus charity organizations solicit money from seniors using a variety of fake causes, from needy local families to international disasters.

Action to take:

  • While Canadian-registered charities are allowed to call residential numbers, they must supply verifiable credentials and full financial disclosure.
  • Also, be careful of non-profit marketers who ask for regular, committed giving using credit cards but don't have secure card-handling procedures.
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