Expert advice on how to avoid becoming a scam victim

Second in a two-part series

With so many text, phone, door-to-door, and email scams targeting seniors and vulnerable people across the region, it’s good to be prepared should you get targeted.

These scams will not stop and will continue to emerge, says Mary Shkoury of Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario.

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

In the seniors she works with, she emphasizes the four Rs – recognize, reject, report and reach.

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

“So immediately decline, hang up, close the door, delete email, delete text and get in touch,” 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 is also urging people to always report to the Canadian Fraud Control Center and local police.

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

Last year, Niagara-on-the-Lake had only two reported victims of fraud with no money lost.

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

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center, only about 5 to 10 percent of people report fraud.

There are also situations where companies like Simply Green and Ontario Green Savings offer people discounts for labor or household services like hydroelectric power, air conditioning, or water heaters.

The seller will push people into a lengthy contract that is difficult to get out of.

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

Once people have signed the contract, many are too embarrassed to tell family and friends about a deal they pressured into agreeing to, he said.

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

Gates told the story of a family friend who only found out about the contract his father had signed after his father’s death.

One of the ways the government can help protect these vulnerable people is by no longer allowing liens on people’s homes, Gates said.

“These seniors have worked their entire lives to build their homes or their savings. And in some cases, they lose everything,” he said.

If someone has an outstanding debt and doesn’t pay it, their house can be taken away from them.

“It’s an unethical business practice,” he added.

Another thing that would help would be if Consumer Protection Ontario extended the current 10-day cooling off period when you sign a contract at your home, he said.

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

“If that happens at the door, they can get out of a contract before they spend years trying to get out of the contract,” Gates said.

When it comes to scams, Chamberland encourages people to be suspicious, listen to their gut, and be cautious — and always report it.

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

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