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Scams using the pandemic to prey on vulnerable seniors Thumbnail

Scams using the pandemic to prey on vulnerable seniors

Covid19 has affected everyone, but in many ways seniors have been disproportionately affected.  The combination of more susceptible health risks, likelihood of living alone and reduction in regular family visits have put many seniors in an isolated position.

Fraudsters are always looking for unsuspecting victims and the pandemic has brought about versions of schemes that use a new angle to prey on vulnerable seniors.  Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario and CanAge Canada published a list of top Covid19 specific scams being used to prey on vulnerable seniors during the pandemic based on information from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Here are some things to look out for:

Fraudsters posing as government

  • Phone calls, emails and texts encouraging clicking of a link to obtain Covid19 related programs or benefits they claim you are eligible for and need to provide personal information to apply
  • Phone calls, emails and texts claiming your health benefits have run out (or are running out) and you need to send money to reinstate them
  • Phone calls, emails and texts claiming you have been exposed to Covid19 and your credit card is required to pay for testing
  • Phone calls claiming to be Canada Post or other delivery service saying a package for you cannot be delivered until you pay duty, taxes or shipping and credit card information is required to pay

Fraudsters posing as bank, insurance or financial institutions

  • Phone calls, emails or texts from fake “financial planners” to transfer money to get portfolios back up due to Covid19 losses
  • Phone calls, emails or texts posing as someone from a bank or insurance company asking for your social insurance number or banking information saying they can deposit funds to your account related to Covid19 benefits

Fraudsters posing as family, friends or community members

  • Version of the traditional “Grandparent Scam” but with the urgency placed around a Covid19 story where phone calls, emails or texts are sent posing as a grandchild stuck overseas with pandemic restrictions with a request to transfer money to get travel funds to get home
  • Phone calls, emails, texts or deceptive websites that are “community helping scams’ posing as someone from a community organization asking for funds to support fake Covid19 causes
  • Version of the traditional “Romance Scam” through social media or online dating sites where the fraudster poses as a lonely and isolated senior seeking someone in a similar position.  Through online messaging these predators develop a relationship with an unsuspecting senior and eventually craft a story where they request money from the senior for a false ‘emergency’.  In some cases they may try to identify an individual whose home they may easily get into to steal items or personal information. They can easily target unsuspecting seniors who are isolated, spending more time online and looking for someone to connect with.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Being aware is your first defense.  Educate yourself and your loved ones.
  • Never give out your SIN, PIN, passwords, credit card information, banking or insurance or other personal information to someone who you don’t know and trust.
  • Resist pressure to ‘act now’.  The sense of urgency is part of the scam.
  • If you are questioning is something is legitimate, verify information on your own terms (i.e. research organizations looking for donations, call your trusted financial advisor to see if your bank or insurance company is legitimately requiring information from you, ask your children or friends you trust for help you verify.
  • If you are suspicious at all hang up or delete. Don’t engage.  These scam artists are searching for any bit of information they can get. Don’t give them anything to work with.


For additional support or information

  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre                                   1-888-495-8501
  • Elder Abuse Network – Seniors Safety Line           1-866-299-1011

Column appeared in This Month in Elgin magazine August 2021 edition

Stephanie Farrow, BA., CFP., Stephanie has over 28 years' experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning and Certified Financial Planner designation.  Stephanie has been writing a financial column for local business magazine Elgin This Month/This Month in Elgin since 2010.  Stephanie and her husband own Farrow Financial Services Inc.  About our Farrow Financial Team.

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Photo credit: Image by Sabine Van Erp from Pixabay