Protect yourself from online scammers

Seniors are a tempting target for cyberscammers

With technology advancements and upgrades coming at breakneck speed, there’s always something newer and more up-to-date to make our lives easier. Unfortunately, things that make our lives easier can also make life easier for criminals—notably, fraudsters and identity thieves.

To mark National Senior Safety Week, Nov. 6–12, the Canada Safety Council and TELUS are teaming up to shed light on how seniors can keep themselves and their information safe, and out of the hands of criminals.

The Competition Bureau of Canada estimates that seniors between the ages of 60–79 were scammed out of $94 million between January 2014 and December 2017. The cost of cybercrime is growing exponentially, and is expected to reach $6 trillion globally by 2021; an increase from $400 billion in early 2015, according to Cybersecurity Ventures (; read their report here).

“Criminals tend to look for the path of least resistance and, too often, that passes through our most vulnerable sections of society,” says Jack Smith, president of the Canada Safety Council. “Seniors seem to be easy targets for a lot of scammers, which is why we feel it’s crucial that we do our part to keep them as informed and prepared as possible to avoid being victimized.”

When it comes to email scams, fortunately, there are some clues that can indicate if a message is legitimate or an attempted scam. Unlike professional emails, scam emails are often littered with spelling and/or grammatical errors. These messages also frequently come from unknown email addresses, do not address the recipient by name, and feature low-quality images.

Additionally, malicious messages may encourage recipients to take urgent actions, involving clicking on links or opening attachments, providing private information, or calling a specific phone number. Unless you’re absolutely certain of a message’s origins, do not download attachments or click on links, as they may contain viruses, spyware, and malware.

Also, refrain from using any method of contact shared in the message. Rather, contact the organization using the phone number or email listed on their website, and inquire about the message’s legitimacy. Messages that appear malicious in nature should be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre ( and deleted.

Here are some tips to help keep all British Columbians safe online:

1. Do not provide personal information to unknown requesters. Look up the name and phone number independently to call them back and verify their identity.

2. Limit what you share online, and do not give out your social insurance number online under any circumstances.

3. Don’t share personal information online, including credit card numbers and your address, unless you are on a secure website. To check, look for a padlock icon next to the site’s address.

4. Use strong passwords with letters, numbers, and symbols, and do not share them.

5. Do not click on unfamiliar links and attachments.

6. Delete social media profiles that are no longer in use (e.g. MySpace)

7. Search yourself online (e.g. Google) to assess your digital footprint, and see what comes up.

8. Make sure operating systems and apps are up-to-date.

9. Be selective when downloading, and do not download anything from unknown sources.

10. Back up important data, files, or information to the cloud or an external device.

11. Use up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software.

12. Do not plug unknown devices into a laptop or computer.

Scammers also use phone calls to try to trick people, as with the well-known CRA scam. Many of these calls are of the “cold call” variety. If you’re unsure about an incoming call, let it go to voicemail.

If you are asked for information over the phone, ensure that you are the one who initiated the call and you know who you’re talking to. Be wary of incoming calls, as you may be speaking with someone who is not affiliated with the organization they claim to be from.

You can also take advantage of TELUS Wise (, a free digital safety education program which offers Canadians of all ages interactive and informative workshops and resources. Topics include protecting your online security, privacy, and reputation, rising above cyberbullying, and using technology responsibly.

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