Recognizing signs of elder abuse

Tips from the BC Better Business Bureau

BBB logo (Submitted)

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) designated June 15, as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

Since then, various organizations, including Better Business Bureau (BBB), have come together to help provide resources, raise awareness and prevent elder abuse.

With this in mind, BBB is urging the public to watch out for signs of abuse against seniors and report any suspected mistreatment immediately.

The Government of Canada says that elder abuse is any action by someone in a relationship of trust that results in harm or distress to an older person. Commonly recognized types of elder abuse include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional financial, and neglect. Often, more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time. A 2015 study by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly in Canada revealed that the prevalence for elder abuse was almost 8 percent, representing 695,248 older Canadians.

BBB is contacted daily about scams specifically targeting seniors which end up costing them money and the exposure of personal information. The scammers usually pretend to be someone they can trust. Business owners, employees, financial institutions and family members can help to prevent elder abuse by scams by becoming familiar with the following frauds:

Grandparents scam. The scammer contacts a grandparent claiming to be their grandchild who is in a dire situation and needs money. The plea is so persuasive that the grandparent wires money to the scammer, only to find out later that their family member was safe and sound all along.

Bogus sweepstakes/lottery scam. You receive an email or phone call allegedly from a contest organizer informing you that you have won a prize. To claim your winnings, scammers say you must first pay taxes, shipping costs, or other fees. You are urged to send the money by wire transfer, or buy a prepaid debit card and share the number and PIN with the “contest organizer”.

Tech support scam. You get a telephone call or see a pop-up alert on your computer screen from someone claiming to be with tech support from a well-known software company. You are told only the tech support employee can fix a problem they have identified and you are asked to give them access to your machine. Once access is granted, the caller may pretend to run a “scan” and claim your computer is infected with viruses. The scammer then offers to fix the problem for a fee. If you allow remote access, malware may be installed on your device. Malware often scans files in search of personal information, which scammers can use to commit identity theft.

We can also share the following tips with seniors:

– Resist the urge to act immediately so you can do your research. Do not rely solely on an online search. Ask for help or advice from a trusted family member or friend.

– Make sure you know who you are really talking to. Ask questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly. Emails can be hacked and phone numbers can be spoofed.

– If you do not recognize a phone number, let the call go to voicemail.

– Never wire money or send gift cards to someone you do not know. No government agency or sweepstakes company will ever ask you to wire money.

– Never give control of your computer to or share passwords with anyone who contacts you.

Report suspected fraud to your bank or credit card company. They may be able to reverse charges for purchases made months or more before, depending on the fraud.

Better Business Bureau at


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