Tips from TAPS: Avoiding a Phone Scam

A cautionary tale from TAPS on the signs of a phone scam

Submitted by TAPS (Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors)

So, this is my embarrassing confession and a cautionary tale. Last year, we researched topics and resources relative to adult/senior/elder abuse for a resource information calendar for Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors (TAPS), which we distributed freely in the community.

Forms of abuse can include financial, physical, sexual or psychological. Neglect is when lack of care, assistance, or attention leads to physical, mental, emotional harm, or loss of financial assets.

Financial frauds and scams are hardly news, and you’ve likely been hearing cautions about versions of schemes across the world and utilizing various platforms. You may have experienced those calls or emails yourself, or know someone who was a victim. I’ve been fairly smug with being knowledgeable about the whole topic and patted myself on the back when I occasionally caught an obvious scam… as an “in the know” senior.

Then one day I got a call from the “Telus Loyalty Program”. As the person on the other end gave details about what the company wanted to give me as a long-time customer, the offers seemed like something a deserving customer might qualify for. I am stunned at my naiveté as I verified and gave him some personal information without realizing how insidious his information gathering strategy was. Apparently, I was to get a monthly reduction, a new modem, an iPhone 12, hundreds of international minutes, and only pay $10 a month for my cellphone. There was a $70 deposit I was to pay, which would be deposited back to my credit card when the technician delivered the gifts. Despite a nagging feeling about all this, I persisted and almost gave my credit card informative, but as it was not active did not. When he asked for my Social Insurance Number (SIN), alarms rang. One of things I’ve learned is my SIN number is NOT to be used as identification. He pushed the issue and when I insisted no, he said he’d send me an email so that I could see it was legitimate. He gave me a number to call him back on.

A call to my daughter helped verify my caution. As he had sent an email (which looked like it was from Telus), a quick check on that source revealed it was phony. Later after talking with the Telus Fraud Centre, they confirmed that every aspect of the call was phony. She said they are not allowed to ask for credit card information, would never ask for money upfront, and one can call the Telus Loyalty Centre any time to find out what the current offers are. As I reread the solicitor’s email, I could now see the glaring errors that are known scam flags that I should have paid attention to, but had ignored. I let my guard down with the promise of the loyalty gifts!

This conversation may be useful for you to share with your loved ones, especially those who may be vulnerable to such tactics. Find out if they have experienced such calls, or talk through some strategies if they do.

Here are some of the rules I failed to follow:

• Don’t be afraid to say no

• Don’t give out any personal information, especially your SIN

• Watch for anomalies in the information, either spoken or written

• Remember, if you didn’t initiate the call, you don’t know who you’re talking to

• Don’t be intimidated by high-pressure sales tactics

• If a telemarketer tries to get you to buy something or send money right away, request the information in writing or hang up

• Watch out for urgent pleas that play on your emotions

• If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t

Report your concerns on scams, fraud, or identity theft to the RCMP at 250-428-9313.

For more information, visit the Canadian Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501 to report.

For help from Seniors First BC, call Seniors Abuse Info Line at 1-866-437-1940.

READ MORE: Tips from TAPS: Spring Renewal

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