Just say no

You may not necessarily have a bull’s eye mark on your forehead, but that doesn’t stop you from being a target. These days, retired people are the prime candidates of a particularly insidious criminal known as the scam artist — someone who makes money by gaining your confidence and then cheating you. Falling victim to fraud always hurts but it can be particularly devastating — emotionally and financially — when you’re in your 70s.

Since 1995, scam artists have successfully defrauded more than $40 million from 12,000 unsuspecting Canadian victims. Of this total, 79 per cent or $31.6 million has come at the expense of people over 60. In too many cases, seniors lose much of the money they planned to live on for the rest of their lives.

Retired people are the main targets for various reasons — they’re at home, are usually trusting and often have access to large sums of money. And because the scams come in so many forms, it’s not always easy to recognize them immediately. There’s the phone call or junk mail card saying you’ve won a contest you never even entered. You must, however, pay to collect the huge prize. You pay your money but the prize never materializes. The’s the phony call from a supposed bank official, asking you to give out personal financial information. Once you give it out, the caller proceeds to drain your account. Or the stockbroker selling a can’t-miss stock. You buy the stock on this expert’s advice only to find out later it’s virtually worthless.

Although the federal government has passed legislation to crack down on this fraud, scam artists always find new ways to beat the system. Your best bet is to do business only with people you know, never pay money to win a prize, don’t tell strangers where you live and never give out financial information over the phone. Learn to say “no thanks” and hang up.