No one is safe from scammers. But vulnerability is a criterion that has the potential to influence the consequences of fraud in a major way. In this sense, seniors, who are often isolated and have temporary or permanent loss of their physical or mental abilities, are also targeted by scammers.
The Aide Abus Aînés [elder abuse hotline] reports that over 30% of the abuse situations communicated to it involved financial abuse (see To consider section* at the end of the article). In its 2017 statistics, the SPVM estimated the number of seniors who were victims of financial abuse at home to be between 4% and 7%. However, since many cases are not exposed or reported, this percentage is an underestimate.
WHAT IS FINANCIAL FRAUD?
Generally speaking, financial fraud is dishonesty used to cheat someone and cause them to lose money. It can take many forms, but three types of fraud are commonly seen in the financial abuse of seniors:
Affinity fraud: where an investment is recommended to us by a member of a group to which we belong, which inspires our immediate trust.
“Relative in distress” scam also known as “grandparent scam”: this involves getting someone to send money by posing as their relative, to avoid raising suspicions.
Phishing: often involves sending emails or text messages that closely resemble those that might be sent from companies, financial institutions and legitimate government organizations.
IMPLICATIONS FOR CAREGIVERS
The fraudulent act itself can cause various degrees of damage, but beyond the financial aspect, the consequences for the senior can go much deeper. In fact, many seniors will never admit it, but they are ashamed of being tricked and are convinced that there is nothing to be done. The caregiver may then have to manage the feelings of confusion, distress, and fear: fear of being bullied, of being moved to a nursing home, of causing conflict with the family, within the support network ... The psychological repercussions can even go as far as an attack on self-esteem and depression.
PREVENTION AND COMMUNICATION: THE CORNERSTONES OF FIGHTING FRAUD
The best way of fighting fraud is still prevention. Against this backdrop, we can identify two types of measures: daily actions (see page 3) and professional assessments. For this second type, Angélique Châtelier, Financial Security Advisor and Certified Professional Consultant on Ageing, promotes communication: “There is no need to wait for a mandate of incapacity to be issued to get informed. Caregivers need to ask questions: do you need my help? Who are your contacts for your insurance, your mortgage? You shouldn’t wait until you are a caregiver to think about establishing a strategy with friends and family.”
If the communication is open, the caregiver - or caregiver to be - can gain a full picture of the care receiver's situation. This way, the caregiver will be better equipped in the event of unusual situations or ones that would require a quick check.
Ms. Châtelier insists that all professionals working with seniors (notaries, physicians, counsellors ...) should encourage these discussions: “I always encourage seniors who come to see me to come with their caregiver. The two parties can then assess my professionalism and my services and discuss it amongst themselves afterwards. There are two benefits to this: the senior’s independence is respected, and the caregiver is made aware; it is important for caregivers to consider the approach from their own viewpoint, because if a problem occurs, they are the ones who will have to resolve it.”
WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE IN THE CASE OF FRAUD?
First, if the fraud has not been officially confirmed, an investigation can be opened by Sûreté du Québec or your city police service. For example, for residents served by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), a single phone call to a community police officer of the neighborhood’s police station is sufficient to initiate an investigation.
If the fraud is proven, the police remain your key resources, along with the RCMPs Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. For situations that involve financial or investment advisors, you can contact the Autorité des marchés financiers. For cases related to a product or service that you have purchased, you can contact the Office de la protection du consommateur (for further advice and contact information, click on this link).
* TO CONSIDER
The statistic mentioned was established following the statistical review of calls that were handled by the Ligne Aide Abus Aînés [Elder Abuse Helpline] from October 1, 2010 to December 31, 2016. These data do not represent a portrait of financial abuse of the elderly in Quebec, but instead reflect worries, questions and concerns raised during calls handled by the Ligne Aide Abus Aînés during this time frame.
Ligne Aide Abus Aînés (Ligne AAA)