Holiday Season Scams Set to Increase

Although the Christmas holiday season is still some time away, as the cooler weather arrives and stores begin to stock winter merchandise, the holiday spirit is starting to take form in the minds of many parents and grandparents.  But along with cheerful window displays, and tempting deals, as consumer spending increases around the holidays – so too does fraud.  Seniors are a favourite target of scammers, especially cybercriminals, and holiday season is a profitable season for scammers. 

According to a recent Morningstar News Marketwatch report, cyber fraud has not only increased, but scammers have become more sophisticated.  Older adults are increasingly falling prey to these criminals who often use tech-support scams, identity theft and nonpayment or nondelivery of goods or services to bilk seniors out of their hard-earned savings. 

In 2021, more than 92,000 fraud victims over the age of 60 reported losses totalling $1.7 billion to the Federal Bureau of Investigation – an increase of 74 percent compared with losses reported in 2020.   Romance and confidence schemes ranked as providing the highest payoff to scammers, robbing older victims of $432 million. 

Fraud prevention experts urge people to closely watch their bank and credit card accounts.  A monthly statement is no longer adequate to catch fraud early.  Seniors who have difficulty navigating an online banking portal or app should have a trusted family member checking on their accounts regularly. 

Any unsolicited emails, texts or phone calls that ask you to provide personal or account information should send up red flags.  Scammers have become exceptionally skilled at posing as what appears to be a legitimate company or trusted individual.   The federal government or a federal agency will never call and ask for personal information over the phone unsolicited. Do not accept a call from an unknown number.  You can verify any callers by visiting your financial institution’s website and logging in yourself or calling the branch number on the back of your bank card. 

It’s easy to fall victim to urgent texts, calls, or emails that concern finances.  Scammers count on people reacting in haste.  If you are feeling pressured to act quickly to protect your device or account, this is another red flag of fraud at work.  Older adults also need to be educated about financial scams in which fraudsters impersonate a grandchild or other loved one who needs money for an emergency.   Money-transfer apps such as Venmo, Zelle, and Cash App are often used to perpetrate these scams, and the money once sent, can be difficult to cancel or retrieve. 

Learn more about how to avoid a scam by following this link to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission website. In Canada, follow this link to the Competition Bureau.