Security commission warns against seniors fraud

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June 25, 2015 8:15 AM

The Alberta Security Commission (ASC) is warning people about fraudsters targeting the province’s senior population and encourage adult children to speak with their parents about red flags they can look for to expose scams that seek to rob them of their money.

Mark Dickey, senior communications officer with the ASC, says they are focused on showing people how to educated themselves, how to research potential scams and who to call to help avoid fraud.

“We’re asking adult children to talk to their parents but we’re recommending they have an open, non-confrontational conversation about this sort of thing with their parents or seniors that they know,” he said. “Because seniors might be worried that they’re going to lose their financial independence if they get into something like this. So we’re hoping that the adult children will just bring up the subject and just ask questions about how they would react if something like this happened. What questions they would ask to avoid fraud.”

Some of the indicators that a senior in your life maybe have become victim of fraud include changes in behaviour, such as complaining they have no money or mentioning that they can’t get a hold of the person they have their money with. Dickey says if all of a sudden they mention their finances and bring up a name you haven’t heard of, this could be a red flag

There are three types of scams he says are more commonly aimed at seniors, the first one being affinity fraud. This is where a fraudster takes advantage of trust within a given group, like a church or even ones family.

“They exploit that trust to bring people into this ‘opportunity’ and, of course, once you’re in it, it turns out to be a fraud later,” Dickey said. “The person has joined the organization, like a church or a curling club, and they will either build trust themselves or they will find somebody that everyone trusts and try to basically scam that person. If they successfully scam that person, people see them supposedly making money and more people will invest.”

The second common scam is called cold calling. With cold calling the victim picks up the phone and a persistent salesperson uses an assertive, genuine sounding sales pitch to offer “investment opportunities.”

The third scam comes in the form of investment seminars. They play off the event like an educational seminar, sometimes offering a free lunch and coffee, and lure people in with exciting or lucrative investment opportunities. Dickey says seniors often feel obligated or pressured to invest because they have accepted the free lunch.

He advises that people should report any suspicious investment opportunities to the ASC so they can help them decide if the opportunity is legitimate and keep anyone else from falling for the same scam.

“We have our own actions we take to try to uncover this sort of thing but we also need the public to call us when they see something that sounds suspicious. Let us know about it because of course we can’t be everywhere,” he said. “Call us, check for registration, don’t be pressured into anything without doing your homework. Anything that says a guaranteed high rate of return with no risk, that’s common for fraudulent investment. Ask a lot of questions of everybody until you understand it and then go back, take your time and do your homework.”

To check if a person or company is registered visit www.aretheyregistered.com. To reach the ASC, call 1-877-355-4488.

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