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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Expert advice on how to avoid becoming a scam victim
Mary Shkoury from Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario encourages seniors to report, reject, reach out and recognize fraud attempts. Supplied

Second in a two-part series

With the number of text, phone, door-to-door and email scams targeting seniors and vulnerable people across the region, it’s good to be prepared in case you’re targeted.

These scams won’t stop and there will always be a new one, says Mary Shkoury from Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario.

“I want them to know how to fight back,” she said.

With the seniors she works with, she emphasizes the four Rs — recognize, reject, report and reach out.

“If you don’t recognize a caller, if you don’t recognize an email if you don’t recognize somebody at your door, reject,” she said.

“So immediately reject, hang up, shut the door, delete the email, delete the text and reach out,” she added.

She encourages seniors to reach out to family members or contact the Ontario Seniors Safety line at 1-866-299-1011.

Corp. Kim Chamberland of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also urges people to always report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and their local police.

“Reporting is essential to combating fraud,” she said in an email to The Lake Report.

There were only two reported victims of fraud in Niagara-on-the-Lake last year, with no money loss.

While that number may seem low, the real total likely much higher, says Shkoury.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, only about 5 to 10 per cent of people report fraud.

There are also situations where companies, like Simply Green and Ontario Green Savings, offer people rebates for work or home services like hydro, air-conditioners or water heaters.

The salesperson will pressure people into a lengthy contract that is hard to get out of.

Many seniors and newcomers to Canada are targets of this scam, says MPP Wayne Gates.

Once people sign the contract, many are too embarrassed to tell family and friends about a deal they agreed to under pressure, he said.

Shkoury wants seniors to know that they should never “feel shamed or afraid, and that there are resources to support them.”

Gates shared the story of a family friend who didn’t find out about the contract his father signed until after his fathers passing.

Among the ways government can help protect these vulnerable individuals is to stop permitting liens on people’s homes, said Gates.

“These seniors have worked their entire lives to build up their equity in their home or their savings. And in some cases, they lose it all,” he said.

If someone has an outstanding debt and if they don’t pay, their home can be taken away.

“It is an unethical business practice,” he added.

Something else that would help is if Consumer Protection Ontario extended the current 10-day cooling-off period when you sign a contract in your home, he said.

This allows someone to cancel a contract within 10 days of getting a written copy.

“So that if this does happen at the door, they can get out of a contract before they’re stuck trying to fight for years and years to get out of the contract,” Gates said.

When it comes to any scam, Chamberland encourages people to be suspicious, listen to their gut feeling and be careful — and always report.

The Ontario Seniors Safety Line can be reached at 1-866-299-1011. Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.

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