Edmonton police warn seniors against telephone fraud

The calls may seem innocent enough, offering help with a computer, or claims of being a long-lost relative. But Edmonton police are warning seniors it’s often a fraud targeted specificaly at them.

Scams changing constantly but seniors still reluctant to report rip-offs

Police say seniors are very 'trusting' and are especially vulnerable to telephone fraud (CBC News)

The calls may seem innocent enough — offers of help with a computer, or claims of being a long-lost relative.

But Edmonton police are warning seniors that these are often frauds that target them and their money.

“Once it’s wired, it’s gone, and the chances of getting it back are slim” said Det. Bill Allen with the economic crime unit of the Edmonton police. “They don’t understand they’re being deceived," said Allen, who noted seniors are especially trusting, and reluctant to tell anyone if they become victims of fraud.

Eric Storey says it may take two or three meetings before a senior admits they've been a victim of fraud. (CBC News)
Retired social worker Eric Storey came across one of those cases last year. Storey is a volunteer councillor at the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE).

“People are very, very slick and we don’t want to be rude to anybody."

Storey said the Edmonton senior became caught up in a Nigerian bank fraud. “The poor senior was in a state of denial”, he said.

According to Storey, the senior believed a caller who claimed to be a Nigerian prince who needed money to extract his fortune from the African country. The money never came, but the senior was out more than $150,000, lost their house, and moved into an apartment, said Storey.  

Seniors afraid of losing independence

Allen said the scams are intended to rob victims of their savings, and they are frequently successful. The crime is under-reported because seniors are afraid that telling someone might jeopardize their independence.

“They may not come forward to report it because they worry their caregivers or children might feel they are vulnerable, and aren’t capable of taking care of themselves."

The scams play out a variety of scenarios.

  • The Grandparent scam where someone calls pretending to be their grandchild in urgent need of money.
  • Romance: A person seeking friendship online, who eventually asks for money to meet up.
  • Inheritance or lottery scams: Someone claiming to be a lawyer offering an inheritance or lottery win. The catch is, the victim will have to pay a percentage of the winning up front, but never receive the prize.
  • Bank inspector scam: A phony fraud investigation by someone saying they are from the bank.
  • Computer virus scam: A bogus provider will allege your computer has a virus that only they can fix. All they want is access to your computer and payment.

Tips to avoid scams

Police offer several tips to avoid being victimized. Allen warned seniors at a fraud seminar Thursday to be extra cautious of calls or visits  from people they don’t know.

Never agree to pay for products or services in advance, and shred personal information, such as bank or credit card statements.

“Keep your money” said Allen.

There were 3,100 fraud cases reported to Edmonton police last year. Police encourage the public to call if they feel they’ve been a victim of economic crime, or know of someone who has.

March is fraud prevention month.


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