More than $22.5 million have been lost last year by Canadians through romance scams. (Contributed)

How to avoid being scammed, free session for seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

The Better Business Bureau will be going through the top ten scams that affect Canadians

Seniors are vulnerable when it comes to financial scams, whether it be the taxes romance or contractors.

The Better Business Bureau is hosting an upcoming presentation in Maple Ridge that will be reviewing the Top 10 scams against seniors and how they can protect themselves.

“It does happen fairly often because they are one of the more vulnerable groups in our society and there are certain scams who are likely to fall for more than others,” explained Karla Davis, with the Better Business Bureau for the Mainland British Columbia, who will be giving the presentation.

Davis says people have lost around $23 million across the country this year alone by falling for scams.

One of the biggest is the Canada Revenue Agency tax scam, with losses across Canada at more than $6 million.

And these numbers are from only five per cent of people who reported being scammed.

“They other 95 have not shared their losses or their experience so we know the figure is actually much larger than that,” said Davis.

The CRA tax scam is where a person will get either an aggressive phone call, an email, text, or even a letter in the mail that informs them that either they need to pay a balance owing or the agency needs additional information to process a return.

“[Seniors] fall into the group of people who are more likely to be victims because, as seniors, you don’t go out as much anymore so you are probably not as socially aware in terms of how the CRA is contacting consumers or the public or how the CRA collects payment,” said Davis.

Then, she added, when you get an aggressive phone call that’s telling you that you are in trouble and the only way out is for you to pay them, even with Bitcoin or iTune gift cards, “it seems like the solution to a big problem you are trying to avoid.”

Most seniors fall for the CRA letters that come in the mail that have an authentic-looking CRA logo and some of them come with forms that are partially completed with the person’s name and address.

“Then it asks you to fill out your [Social Insurance Number] and your banking information. Some of them have a return envelope with a stamp to return it back, but then you check the return address, it’s not going to the CRA,” Davis added.

Davis said scammers will then take your SIN number, your personal information and your credit card number and use those details to apply for loans, to apply for jobs or to file a tax return in your name.

The biggest scam for seniors, though, is one on romance.

“One of the reasons why they end up falling for that scam is that a lot of them say they are alone, they want companionship and they want someone to talk to. And this person seemed that they were genuinely interested and cared about them,” said Davis.

The romance scam is where somebody makes contact with the person through social media, Facebook or on a dating site and initiate a relationship.

”They befriend you, manipulate you and get you to think that you are in love or they are very interested in you,” said Davis.

Then they speed up the process to get you off the dating site so that you guys are contacting one-on-one through either WhatsApp or by texting or email. From there they continue to get information from you or convince you into thinking there is a genuine relationship going on.

“Then they start asking you money questions, if you can send them money because they have an emergency or if you can assist them by buying a certain product or certain products or collecting money or collecting products from someone else. You end up getting scammed or becoming a money mule,” said Davis.

One way seniors can protect themselves is to share the details of their experiences with a trusted family member who can advise them if they think this person is the real deal.

In terms of the tax scam, Davis advises seniors to review all the documents carefully before sending personal information and financial information through the mail or online. She also says the CRA can always be contacted by their toll-free number to verify information.

For contractors who come to the door, Davis recommends contacting the BBB to verify the legitimacy of the company that is trying to do business with them, see what the ratings are for that company, see what other customers have experienced with that company and see if they have the requisite license to be operating on your house.

And, she says, generally, if you have been the victim of a scam you can report it to the BBB.

“It is not something to be embarrassed about,” said Davis.

“Yes, we know you feel bad. You feel terrible knowing that you were manipulated, but you reporting it helps us to get information to put an end to scamming and apprehend the persons who are doing the scamming,” she said.

On March 1, the BBB is doing a launch of the Top 10 scams list that have been affecting Canadians over the last year.

Davis will be going through that list with seniors during a free event on March 5 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Maple Ridge Public Library, 22470 Dewdney Trunk Road. Refreshments will be served.

To reserve a spot, call Heather at 604-786-7404 or email seniorsnetworkmpk@gmail.com.

• For more information, go to seniors-network.ca.

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