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CAFC Bulletin: Scams Targeting Seniors


This fraud bulletin was prepared to highlight four scams currently targeting senior Canadians. Each scam is outlined below and includes warning signs and ways to protect yourself.

Prize Scams

Canadian seniors are solicited over the phone, email, through the mail or via social media websites claiming that they are the winner of a large lottery or sweepstake. Recently, the CAFC has received reports where seniors receive a call from an individual who claims to represent “Reader’s Digest”, or “Publisher’s Clearing House”. Scammers advise that you have won a prize (cash and car) and in order to receive the winnings you are required to pay a small advance fee to cover taxes or legal fees associated to the win. After the fee is paid, no prize is ever received. Scammers target seniors, use their financial information to take over their accounts, which are then used to launder money and proceeds from other mass marketing fraud scams.

Warning Signs – How to Protect Yourself

  • Legitimate lottery companies will never demand payments before releasing winnings.
  • You must purchase a ticket to win the lottery.
  • Consumers cannot win foreign lotteries unless they have specifically attended that country and purchased a ticket.
  • Beware of counterfeit cheques or other forms of payment the fraudsters will send to help cover fees – such as tax payment, lawyers’ fees, customs, etc.

Emergency Scam

Scammers use social media, the internet and phones to target potential senior victims with the emergency scam. Seniors receive a call claiming to be a family member or a close friend describing an urgent situation that requires immediate funds. Common themes have been that the family member (e.g. grandchild) was arrested or got into an accident while travelling abroad. Monies are required for hospital expenses, lawyer fees or bail. Usually the potential victim is instructed to send money via a money service business like Western Union or MoneyGram or through prepaid cards, like Green Dot Money Pack, Pay Safe, or other types of gift cards.

Warning Signs – How to Protect Yourself

  • Confirm with other relatives the whereabouts of the family member or friend.
  • Police, judges or legal entities will never make urgent requests for money.
  • Never voluntarily give out family members’ names or information to unknown callers.
  • Always question urgent requests for money.

Romance Scams

Scammers steal photos and use dating sites and social media to lure potential victims into sending money for various reasons. The scammer will gain the trust of the victim through displays of affection and will communicate via phone, skype and email for months, if needed to build trust. The scammer will often claim to be working abroad, usually in a lucrative business venture. Eventually the scammer will want to meet with the victim in person. It is at this time that the scammer will inform them that they cannot afford to travel and will ask for money to cover travel costs. Another variation involves the scammer claiming that there is a medical emergency with a sick family member. They will then ask for money to cover medical expenses.

Warning Signs ‐ How to Protect Yourself

  • Fraudsters want to develop a quick relationship. Be suspicious when someone you have not met professes their love for you.
  • Be wary when someone claims to be involved in a lucrative business but needs to borrow money for bills and expenses.
  • Be cautious when chatting with an individual who claims to live close but works overseas.
  • Do not cash cheques or send the person money for any reason, whatsoever!

If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti‐Fraud Centre at 1-888‐495‐8501 or report online at

This document is the property of the CAFC. It is loaned to your agency/department in confidence and it is not to be reclassified, copied, reproduced, used or further disseminated, in whole or part, without the consent of the originator. It is not to be used in affidavits, court proceedings or subpoenas or for any other legal or judicial purposes. This caveat is an integral part of this document and must accompany any information extracted from it.