There are many things people of all ages, including seniors and older adults, can do to maintain their personal safety and security.
Here are some tips and below, some useful resources:
• Always be wary of anyone, no matter how friendly they are asking you for money - especially if they ask you to send money through a money-wire service. Scammers can pose as people from charities or even family members (like the ongoing infamous Grandparent Scam that particularly targets seniors and other scams (scroll down page for a few).
- Verify a charity's request by asking it to send you a donation envelope.
- Verify a family member's request with other family members - especially if the so-called relative is saying they are out of town...check that this is actually true!
• Keep your doors locked even if you are just in your back yard. It doesn't take very long for a thief to slip into your home. Be mindful of unknown people hanging around in your neighbourhood that don't belong. Contact Block Watch to report or your local police.
• Use your peep-hole in your front door to see who is at the door before answering it. If you don't feel comfortable, don't answer it - trust your instincts.
• If a stranger asks to use your phone, do not let him or her in. If you have a repairman booked, ask to see proper identification before letting them in.
• Join Block Watch! Block Watch encourages neighbours to work together to effectively reduce crime and nuisance behaviour in their community, by reporting suspicious activity to the police.
• When out walking alone, walk confidently with your head up and be aware of your surroundings.
- Walk in well-lit areas away from tall fences or shrubs.
- Carry your keys in your pocket in case your purse is stolen. Keep your purse or wallet close to your body and out of sight. If possible don't carry large sums of cash and/or all your Identification if you don't need to.
- If you think you are being followed, stay calm and confidently cross the street and go to the nearest home or open store or business, or public place where someone can help you.
• Watch out for sales people who "just happen to be in your neighbourhood" or who pressure you to pay for services such as home-improvements before work is started. Don't be in a rush to sign a contract. Demand that you wish to think about the deal. Do your research - check the business/company out online or consult the Better Business Bureau directory (BBB). If a deal is good today, it will be good tomorrow.
• Say "no": it's not rude - it's shrewd. Know that con-artists are experts in bullying. They take advantage of politeness. Saying "no" is an act of self-respect. Saying "no" protects people you care about.
• Trust your gut: when in doubt - reach out. Con-artists pressure you to make a snap decision - take your time. If you're feeling rushed or pressured, consult someone you trust and/or if on the phone, hang up and stop engaging. No reputable company, business or charity should pressure you.
• Mum's-the-word - guard your personal information always. Con-artists are professionals at tricking you into sharing your private information. Never share passwords, banking and credit card information. An actual bank or credit union will never ask you for this information online or on the phone. Only give addresses or phone numbers to people you know and trust. When you are using a public ATM bank machine or entering your PIN at store, always shield your private PIN number with your other hand so it can't been seen by someone or photographed.
• You can learn - don't get burned. Con-artists use internet tricks to steal your personal information. Learn simple strategies for protecting yourself. Many community agencies and your local library offer workshops and most are free. Educate yourself - be aware.
• Never pay to win or inherit money. Con-artists prey on your optimism. They will pretend to be anyone - a lottery, a lawyer or your bank. You never have to send money to get money - that's a scam!
• Report fraud: act fast or your money won't last. Con-artists move fast. The sooner you report suspected fraud, the more able you are to protect your money and personal information.
To report a crime: If you have lost money or have provided personal or banking information to a suspected con-artist, contact your local police or the RCMP immediately.
To report a fraud: Call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll-free at 1-888-495-8501
To report the loss or theft of your debit card or credit card: Call your local bank, credit union, financial institution or related company as soon as possible.
Notify your utility or service providers that your personal information has been compromised. Ask that any requests for new service be confirmed with you directly.
If you have lost personal documents:
Social Insurance Number: Call Service Canada, toll-free at 1-800-622-6232 (TTY 1-800-926-9105)
Passport: Call Passport Canada, toll-free at 1-800-567-6868 (TTY 1-866-255-7655)
Immigration Documents (including permanent resident card): Call Citizenship and Immigration Canada, toll-free at 1-888-242-2100 (TTY 1-888-576-8502)
If you have lost provincially-issued personal documents (driver's license, health card, birth certificate), contact your local provincial government.
- For Vancouver, BC: 604-660-2421 (TTD 604-775-0303
Note: Above numbers could be subject to change.
• Info compiled from RCMP's Senior's Guidebook to Safety and Security, and the Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL) where you can download most of the materials they produce, including legal reports and educational tools for free at the CCEL website at www.bcli.org/ccel.
• If you know of any further tips or resources to share about this important topic, we always welcome your comments and feedback below - thank you!