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'I fell for it once': Seminar teaches seniors to protect themselves against scams

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Each year, tens of thousands of Canadian seniors are scammed out of their savings by fraudsters. On Wednesday, a free workshop took place at Yakimovich Wellness Centre in Victoria to educate seniors on how to protect themselves.

Ellen Stensholt, 82, attended that seminar. She has been the target of a seniors scam in the past.

“I fell for it once, but was saved by my bank,” said Stensholt.

A scammer posed as ICBC, telling her she was bout to receive a $100 rebate.

“I was going to send them my banking information so that they could deposit the money into my account,” said Stensholt.

Fortunately, her bank recognized it was a scam and alerted her before it was too late.

Stensholt was one of more than 20 seniors attending the two-hour seminar.

“Every day I think we get reports,” said Const. Berle Zwaan of the Saanich Police Department.

Zwaan has been a police officer in Saanich for 28 years. As of late her career has focused on financial crimes and fraud prevention.

She says all types of scams are on the rise across the country.

“Residents in Saanich have reported about $7.7 million in losses to the police alone,” said Zwaan.

That was just last year. Only $155,000 of that was recovered due to the fact that the money often ends up overseas.

Many of those scams including phishing emails, phone calls and the ever-increasing grandparent scam that targets seniors.

“We know that seniors are home, we know that they have access to technology and they are fairly well-off here in North America,” said the Saanich police officer—which makes Canada a prime target for scammers.

Zwaan says there are four things seniors can do to protect themselves:

  • Slow down and don’t rush into any decisions
  • Ask yourself if what you are being presented with makes sense
  • Talk to a trusted friend, family member, bank or lawyer before acting
  • Do your own research.

The seminar is a partnership between the Saanich Police Department, Target Theatre and the Eldercare Foundation, which supports seniors to age with dignity.

“One of the key programs that Eldercare supports is education,” said Tom Arnold, executive director of the Eldercare Foundation. “Obviously one of the key issues right now is fraud, so it’s really important for us to provide that information to seniors to help keep them safe.”

“We just have to protect ourselves,” said Stensholt.

Being almost taken once, Stensholt says every week some sort of scam comes her way and that is why she attended the seminar: to educate herself. 

“What I hope to know, what are the new scams,” said Stensholt.

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