As seniors gathered for their morning activities with the James Bay New Horizons Society on Tuesday, much of the conversation centered around the alarming increase in calls from fraudsters with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) phone scam.
Those that attend the facility are educated regularly about various scams and the necessary precautions so they don’t become a victim. So far nobody at the society has fallen for the latest scam that appears to be targeting many seniors in the city.
“We do worry. There’s always the ones that we don’t reach and you’re never sure what’s going to happen and if they could fall victim,” said Kim Dixon, executive director with James Bay New Horizons, adding seniors are taught to have a whistle by the phone to blow if a caller becomes belligerent.
“Probably every month there’s something different going on. Again, we just tell them to be aware.”
Victoria police have been flooded with calls lately from citizens traumatized by the CRA scam that typically involves a phone call from an angry caller, claiming to represent the agency and that taxes are owed.
The caller requests immediate payment by credit card or convinces the victims to purchase a prepaid credit card and call back immediately with the information. If they don’t, the victims are often threatened with court charges, jail or deportation.
In some cases, local residents attempted to turn themselves in for what they believed to be non-payment of their taxes. One woman who went to police headquarters to face arrest was crying and shaking.
Victoria police Chief Frank Elsner would like to have a unit dedicated towards investigating seniors abuse, but the department doesn’t have the resources to do so at this time.
In 2013, Victoria police recorded 320 fraud cases and 303 the previous year. The bulk of those cases targeted seniors, and include scams such as the ‘grandchild send money I’m in trouble or hurt scam’ and the sweetheart scam.
In February 2014, two door-to-door home renovation scam artists were manipulating seniors and disabled residents in Victoria and Esquimalt. In one incident, an Esquimalt woman arrived home to find the two men tearing apart her roof. When she confronted them, the men told the woman her disabled son had authorized the work. The two men fled after damaging the woman’s roof.
Detectives with the fraud unit have since reached out to a number of senior care facilities.
n March 2014, Victoria police launched a campaign to prevent fraud against seniors and visited several retirement homes to offer tips on how to spot a scam.
“We have a very high population of seniors here, so some of the issues we deal with are a little different. With seniors, a lot of times we find they have a higher fear of crime, even though the crime rate is quite low,” said Elsner, adding the CRA scam was upsetting for him, especially after hearing about the emotionally distraught woman at police headquarters.
“It breaks my heart when I hear that. They don’t know. They believe in the system and they are just so distraught. They’ve never been in trouble their entire life before and suddenly this governing agency is now out to get them and they are terrified.”
More information about scams and fraud can be found at vicpd.ca.
— Pamlea Roth