‘They are very vulnerable’: Seniors learn how to spot grandparent scams

Residents of a retirement home in Kitchener were given a lesson on grandparent cheating on Thursday.

The hope is that once they know what to look out for, they won’t fall victim to scams.

Grandparent fraud, also known as an emergency or scammer scheme, occurs when a stranger poses as a family member and asks for money.

Shirley DuCharme, 91, attended the education session at Briarfield Gardens Senior Living.

She said she’s been receiving some strange calls recently, including voicemails, from someone claiming to be from Amazon demanding money.

“They said give it back to us, it’s $99.99,” DuCharme explained.

That’s one way scammers try to take advantage of seniors.

“They trust people and care about the well-being of their families, so they want to do whatever it takes to help, and they lose a lot of money in the process,” said Angela Dennis, President and CEO of the Better Central Ontario Business Office.

The organization gave tips on how to recognize and avoid all kinds of disadvantages during Thursday’s event.

“Unfortunately, some of our residents have been scammed here in our community,” said Meghan Bignell, a director at Briarfield Gardens. “You are very vulnerable.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, about 1,600 incidents were reported to them in 2021 and $379 million was lost.

“That’s just a fraction of what’s really happening, that’s the unfortunate part,” said one of the event attendees.

Some incidents go unreported because seniors may feel embarrassed that they fell for the program.

But the scammers are clever and sometimes find out family names and nicknames via social media to try to trick potential victims.

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“We’ve seen it go as far as saying their grandson needs bail or money to get out of a situation, and then another person even answers the phone and claims to be a detective,” Dennis said . “Don’t make a quick decision. Stop and think about it. To verify. Contact a family member.”

MORE: Grandparent scams: How they work and what you can do to avoid them

Briarfield Gardens staff also hosts a weekly tech meeting where they help residents with suspicious emails.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Bignell said. “They worked hard for their earnings and got to enjoy them.”

DuCharme called her granddaughter after receiving messages from the person claiming to be from Amazon and her suspicions were confirmed.

“I’m well aware of that and I’m very cautious about calls that we don’t know about,” she said.

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