Caveat Emptor

At what age do we abdicate our common sense and become fearful causing us to make decisions against our own self interests?

Stories of seniors being bamboozled by scam artists, get rich quick schemers and becoming terrified by every piece of mail relating to money that arrives, seemingly otherwise intelligent folk cave in and give away (directly or indirectly) their financial information and security.

Elders are more often targeted because they are seen as easier marks to those who would take advantage. What I find perplexing is why do those people, who 20-30 years earlier would never fall prey to these pitches, become victims now?

I am not speaking to issues of actual mental impediments. I am referring only to those folks in our ever-aging population, still able to function, who somehow allow themselves to be talked out of their personal information and savings, and to those who panic when a statement arrives in the mail saying – “you owe xyz or else”, and panic even though they may never even have had dealings with the entity doing the mailing/calling.

I am sure many of you have received letters or e-mails from Namibia, Spain, purporting to contact you due to an inheritance from some unknown person or very distant relative. I wish!

Some actually take this “news” seriously and, worse, send the requested money for “handling fees” away to the unknown sender. Why would you send anyone you don’t know your hard won money?

And then there are relentless telemarketers and incessant e-mailers trying to part you from your money and financial information.  In written form the clues of fraud are easier to ascertain. An e-mail came to my inbox which started off as if we were long time acquaintances,

“I’m sure you’ve been swamped…but wanted to see if you had received my e-mail from a few days ago (see below)?”…

I had never received the first e-mail and it began: “Hi Joey”. DELETE!

Personal favourites start “Dear” and are so full of grammatical errors/misspelled words you have to know, DELETE!

But why do seniors give out their personal financial information over the phone just because the caller says they are calling from the Bank, UPS, a Revenue Department?  Phone messages claiming to be from Revenue Canada requiring immediate payment or possible sanctions including asset seizures, legal fees and wait for it, jail = DELETE!

Some Tips

  1. Real Revenue Departments don’t make these types of calls. A letter has to be the first form of contact.
  2. Quebec and Canada long ago abolished debtors’ prison, so hearing “jail”  indicates the message is fraudulent. Moreover, no taxpayer is obliged to speak directly with the Canada Revenue Agency. Check out the Taxpayer Bill of Rights policy  statement. Were you even aware we had one?
  3. This is not the IRS and seizures in this country usually require pre-authorization from a Court, and you can contest these procedures. The CRA can garnish assets if you fail to make arrangements to pay, but this only after other attempts to collect have failed. So don’t be fooled into giving out your S.I.N., credit card or bank information on the phone or online.
  4. If you do receive such a call, ask the person for their name, phone and file numbers; say you will call them back. Either they will refuse or give you some explanation as to why you can’t call them back. Insist. If you do get some contact information, then end the call and look up the main phone number for whichever entity called you and call or e-mail to confirm the validity of the caller.

I have also received texts, allegedly from the Bank of Montreal, saying there was unusual activity on my account. I forwarded the text message to my Bank. Of course it was bogus. I was assured BMO does not send such texts to its clientele.

Always click on the name of all e-mail senders to verify the actual sender. Often e-mails sent from “friends” actually emanate from someone totally different.  DELETE!  Always, log into your account via the actual Home page of the entity in question to verify the message received was on the up and up.

Beware shapes of logos, or lack thereof, which accompany some e-mails alerting you to alleged problems with your accounts. The Apple image for the real iTunes should be shaped like on the Apple products. If it is a squashed apple, DELETE!

So Buyer/Recipient Beware! Don’t panic. Don’t be afraid. Always verify senders IDs and certainly never give monetary and important personal information over the phone or via e-mail. If you aren’t sure, that is your clue to hang up or DELETE!

Me. Hammerschmid has practiced Family Law since 1982; Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates; founding & current member of Family Law Association of Quebec (past Secretary for 28 years). Inquiries treated confidentially: 514-846-1013 or hammerschmid@vif.com © 2016 Linda Hammerschmid 

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