In the modern age, the developments in communication technologies and other tools that provide us easier access to one another are continually expanding.
These new ways to connect with one another can help us to uphold important connections and to reach out to one another through easier and more diverse types of connection. While having such ease of access to each other can be helpful and valuable in our lives, it is also true that each new type of contact adds another outlet through which people with unkind or dishonourable intentions can take advantage of us. Nowadays, the fact that contact details and other personal information is easier to access than ever before, when each of us had merely one phone number and a home address, means that scams are more widespread and prevalent than they ever have been in the past. Unfortunately, seniors are among the groups most often targeted by scammers, so it is extremely important that seniors and their caregivers come to understand how to best keep themselves protected against scams.
Why Target Seniors?
Generally speaking, seniors are understood to be a more vulnerable population who are overly trusting, and less technologically-literate than their younger counterparts. While these blanket assumptions are not always true, they lead people attempting to get away with deceit and fraud to believe that seniors are the perfect target. Research has actually shown that aging leads to changes in the brain that reduce seniors’ capacity to identify and detect deception and dishonesty, which means that even the most skeptical and distrusting seniors are at a slightly greater risk of falling prey to the ploys of scammers. There are also other numerous aspects of older age that set up seniors to be accessible for scammers to target. First of all, many seniors are at home a lot throughout the day, which means there is a significant amount of time each day during which seniors can be targeted in door-to-door or telephone scams. The fact that these seniors are also often home alone during the daytime means that scammers can assume that there is no one else to help seniors identify deceit that they themselves may not pick up on. The fact that seniors are often also understood to be less technologically-savvy than their younger counterparts, means that scammers can hope they are less able to identify internet or email scams on their computers or other devices. Scammers take advantage of presumed aspects of seniors’ lives that they understand to be weaknesses or areas of ignorance so that they are more likely able to get away with their scams.
Keeping Seniors Safe
The fact that scammers set out to intentionally target seniors is a difficult reality to accept, but it is a real problem nonetheless. For this reason, it is important that seniors and their caregivers have purpose-driven and intentional conversations to put safeguards and plans into place that can help seniors to keep themselves protected against fraudulent tactics and from those people who may try to take advantage of them.
- Encounters at the Door: While not answering the door at all is the option that would best keep seniors safe from encounters with potential scammers, the truth is that it might be challenging or unrealistic for seniors to avoid opening the door to anyone they don’t know. Whether it be because other services are delivered to the door, or because seniors may feel inclined to be courteous to anyone ringing their doorbell, it can be hard to make it an overarching rule to never answer the door. If someone unsolicited should come to the door, the following are some good rules to follow:
- Never accept a service that you did not request
- Never allow strangers to enter the home
- Never disclose personal information
- Never give cash
- Never sign anything
- Email and Internet: When it comes to scams initiated via the internet, there are preventative measures that can be taken to help keep seniors safer. Installing security software, adding spam and junk filters, and putting safeguarding settings onto the internet can help to keep harmful or fraudulent messages from getting through that might rope seniors into a scam. Seniors should also be vigilant about making sure they never click on pop-ups, open unfamiliar attachments, follow website links from unknown sources, or respond to emails from strangers and should avoid ever releasing personal information. If worries arise on the computer, seniors should seek technical assistance as quickly as possible.
- Phone Calls: Similarly to with the front door, the best option for making sure seniors don’t end up trapped in phone-based scams is to have them avoid answering calls from unknown or unfamiliar callers. Setting up call display can help with this option. Alternatively, registering with Canada’s Do Not Call List can reduce the amount of calls that come in. Should a call from an unknown number make its way through, seniors should ensure that they do not offer up any personal information (such as name, address, or banking information), and should not say ‘yes’ to receive any services that they did not seek out themselves.
Anyone can be targeted by a scam, and seniors should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about being, targeted, tricked, or deceived. If seniors should find themselves caught in a scam, it is crucial that they report the incident so that they can help to stop the culprits from acting again and victimizing another unsuspecting person, and also so that the appropriate investigations can take place to make sure the scammers are caught. With some help and support from friends, family, or a trusted caregiver, seniors in Ottawa can work to make sure they are prepared and aware of the ways in which potentially fraudulent situations might come to take place.