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Security Tips for Seniors

Many seniors list "fear of crime" as one of their biggest concerns.

Statistics show, however, that for most crimes, seniors are the least victimized group. Also, much of the crime that is directed at seniors occurs while they are out of the home, such as break and entering.

However, when the crimes do occur, the consequences are often more severe for those at an advanced age. Many seniors live on a fixed income, so the loss of money or property is difficult to replace. Also as people get older their bodies take longer to recover from injury, so an attack on a senior generally has a much more serious outcome than a similar attack would on a younger counterpart. As such, steps should be taken to reduce the chance that you could become a victim of crime.

The related links on this website go into detail on how to best protect your home and yourself.

Elder Abuse

In the past few years, more and more cases of abuse of the elderly have been brought to attention of the general public. What makes these crimes even worse for seniors is that the perpetrators generally are those close to them -- family, friends, or their appointed caregivers.

There are many different types of abuse, and some of the main ones are:

  1. Financial - This abuse can include a person being forced to change their will, or having their property sold or given away without their consent, or with forced consent. Also, it can involve withholding certain funds, such as a pension check, from the rightful recipient. No one has the right to do these things to you, even if you have given someone power of attorney, they are obligated to act in your best interests not theirs.

  2. Physical Abuse - This can encompass common assault and restraining the individual for long periods of time, either by locking them inside, tying them down, or over medicating them so they cannot get out of bed.

  3. Psychological or Emotional Abuse - No one should be subjected to insults, threats, intimidation, or yelling. However, this form of abuse can also include acts such as denying a person access to their friends and family, withholding certain rights and privileges. Or else it can encompass invading a person’s privacy by interfering with their mail, telephone calls, or money matters. It also manifests itself in the denial of a safe environment, food and personal care, hygiene, medical and legal services, or preventing opportunities for worship.

If you or any senior that you know of are the victim of any type of abuse, contact the local authorities.

Home Invasion

For the past few years, a number of home invasion incidents have garnered a large amount of media attention. While these incidents are few in number, they tend to have severe consequences. If you are a victim of a home invasion, try to co-operate as much as possible, possessions can be replaced, they are not worth your health. Try to remember any distinguishing features of your assailants that you can tell the police about afterwards. Finally, call 9-1-1 as soon as it is safe to do so.

There are certain precautions you can take to limit the chance of you becoming a victim of home invasions.

  • keep your doors locked at all times - if there is a knock at the door, verify the identity of the person through a peephole there before you open it

  • make sure your door is made of solid wood or metal - a door is only as strong as its frame, so install a metal frame or have the current frame reinforced

  • place a security film or Plexiglas on the inside of the window, as it increases the difficulty in breaking the glass

  • keep a phone handy - if you have a cordless one, take it to the door with you when there is knock at the door

Home Security

For general information, see Crime Prevention & Safety for Homes & Rental Properties.

  • do not have cheques mailed to you, as many criminals can figure out when monthly pension checks arrive and will attempt to intercept them; see your bank about having your cheques direct deposited

Purse Snatching

Purse snatching is one of the few crimes were seniors represent a greater proportion of those victimized. The best way to prevent becoming a target is to not carry a purse. However, for many people this is not practical. So if you are going to carry a purse here are some tips to both reduce the chance that you get targeted for this crime, and also to limit the damage if you are attacked.

  • walk with your head up high and with a sense of purpose, since attackers target those whom they consider to be easy prey

  • wearing the strap across your body makes it harder for an attacker to take the purse of off you, BUT if you are attacked it increases the likelihood of injury

  • carry keys and identifying documents in your pocket, so that if your purse is stolen the thieves can’t break into your house later on

  • do not carry large amounts of money if possible

Senior Centres

Senior centres are important, as they provide a safe and nurturing environment for seniors to interact socially. They provide clinics and orientation meetings to help seniors learn effective techniques that they can utilize in the outside world in order to remain self-sufficient. Also, if any problems or situations do come up, senior centers tend to have access to the respective authorities to resolve these problems.

Fraud

While many seniors fear physical attacks, the criminal group that seems to target them the most is con artists. It may sound simple to turn down these offers, but the people talking to you will be extremely charming and convincing. Remember they are out to sell something, so it is up to you to guard against being taken advantage of. The following are some of the more popular con scams:

Advance Payment Lottery Scams – Anyone who calls or emails you to say you have won a lottery is likely a fraudster. You cannot win a lottery you have not entered. They will say that you have won a significant amount of money, and that you need to send a fee to pay for taxes or handling so your winnings can be sent to you. If you send money, they will ask for more, inventing new reasons each time (lawyer fees, banking fees, etc.). They will ask you to wire the money, often to somewhere outside of Canada. This common scam has caused some seniors to lose a good part of their life savings.

Bank Examiner - A person will contact you claiming to be a representative of a financial institution, asking for your help to catch a crooked employee at their business. They will ask you to withdraw a certain amount of money, and then send it to a certain address or hand it over to someone in person so they can examine the serial numbers on the money. Of course, after the money is handed over, the examiner disappears into thin air.

Secret Shopper – You receive an email asking you to be a secret shopper. As payment, you will be mailed a cheque. You are told to deposit the cheque into your bank account, and then forward some of the money to them, keeping the balance as compensation. The original cheque will later be rejected by your bank as fraudulent, and you will be out the money you sent to the fraudsters.

Home Repairs, Renovations and Inspections - This scam takes a number of forms but involves someone coming to your door offering home repairs or inspections, as they are working in the area, and therefore can give you a special price. The scammers often ask for large advance payments, and then disappear, or they perform minor or shoddy work they charge a large sum of money for.

Make sure you get a number of quotes from companies when you hire anyone to work on your home. Ask for references and call them. Contact the Better Business Bureau to make sure the business is in good standing in the community. No reputable company would ask for payment up front.

Grandparent Scam – These fraudsters call seniors pretending to be a grandchild in trouble. They will trick you into saying the name of your grandson or granddaughter, and then claim to be that person. They will say they are in jail, that they don’t want their parents to know, and they need you to send money to help them out. A second person will get on the phone claiming to be a lawyer, telling you to wire money, often outside of Canada, to help your grandchild. Many seniors have been victimized in this way, as fraudsters prey on the love and concern you have for your grandchildren.

CRA Scam – A fraudster will call you claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, saying that there is a problem with your taxes and that you owe money. They may say that there is a warrant for your arrest or that you are facing deportation. They demand payment to cancel the warrant or stop deportation proceedings. You are instructed to buy pre-paid gift cards or iTunes cards, and then tell them the codes over the phone.

The CRA will never call you threatening arrest or deportation or demanding payment by credit card, pre-paid gift cards or iTunes cards.

Romance Scams – Many seniors have turned to the internet looking for companionship, only to be victimized by fraudsters. They will “meet” someone online who seems very nice and decent, and will develop strong feelings for that person based on email correspondence and photos the fraudster has exchanged with them. Invariably, the fraudster will ask for money as they need an emergency loan to secure a business deal or get them out of trouble, and they will promise quick repayment once the crisis passes. Unfortunately, many seniors have lost significant sums of money, which cannot be recovered from fraudsters who can’t be located or identified.

Email phishing – You will receive an email that appears to be from a well-known Canadian bank asking you to confirm your personal details and account information. This is always a scam. No reputable business or bank will send you emails asking you to confirm information they already have. Fraudsters are trying to get this information from you in order to steal your identity and commit fraud in your name.

An important thing to keep in mind at all times is if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true.

Contact the Lower Mainland Better Business Bureau (BBB) for more information on frauds and scams.

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Elder Abuse

Learn about the VPD's S.A.F.E. program and how you can protect yourself and get help if you need it.

SAFE Safety Awareness for Elders

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