Remember the good old days when the telephone would ring, and everyone in the house would immediately jump up and race to answer it? In today’s world, even though we are isolated and many of us are feeling lonelier than ever, the ring of the telephone doesn’t seem to bring us all that much joy anymore.

While we once cherished hearing the voice of a loved one from miles away, now we practically cringe when we hear the familiar ring. If truth be told, I’m sure that most of us would rather avoid the person on the other end of the line.

Many of the calls that are coming through to both our landlines and cellular phones are indeed cringe-worthy because they are often fraudsters trying to take advantage of people.

According to statistics gathered by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre more than 40,000 Canadians were victims of fraud in 2020. Financial losses for these victims totaled over $106 million.

“Seniors are certainly a target for fraudsters,” said Jody Kehler, Senior Living Specialist. “Telephone scams seem to be the most common for the elderly, most likely because seniors are more apt to talk on the phone versus younger people.”

Those who are in the business of taking advantage of people use many means to achieve their goals. There are internet, email, mail, text, fax, and phone scams. The subject matter also varies, everything from air duct cleaning and investment opportunities to supposed issues with your social insurance number or unpaid balances. Regardless of the method or the subject, people of all ages need to be on high alert.

One of the ways that seniors can protect themselves is to stay informed. If you are aware of scams, you have a better chance of identifying one if you get a call, email, or text message. There are news reports and advertisements that help to keep people up-to-date on what the latest scams are. If you have access to the internet, a quick search of telephone scams or email scams in Canada will provide you with the most recent updates.

“This may not please the phone etiquette police but I have found that call display is useful in avoiding telephone scams. If it’s a number I don’t recognize or if it seems like an odd number, I don’t answer it,” said Kehler. “My theory is if it’s an important call or someone who truly knows me, then they’ll leave a voicemail, and I’ll call them back. Besides, my close family, friends, and neighbours all have my phone number, with call display I know exactly who is calling.”

Other tips to avoid being the victim of a scam include:

  • Do not give out personal information including your name, birthdate, address, social insurance number, and banking or credit card information.
  • Be aware that if you are promised a prize or goods and asked to pay a fee upfront to receive it, it is likely a scam.
  • While it’s often not part of our nature to be rude, do not be afraid to say no or hang up.
  • Verify the legitimacy of the caller by asking them questions and doing further research before taking action.

If you have fallen victim to a scam, report the incident as soon as possible. In doing so, you can help protect other Canadians.