An advocacy group says seniors in Canada — particularly Atlantic Canadians — are increasingly becoming the targets of scams.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Canadians to spend more time at home, more older adults across the country have been able to spend time online.
But Bill VanGorder with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) says this shift to seniors adopting online platforms hasn't been entirely positive.
"This has been a real problem that's been, in many ways, brought on by COVID," VanGorder said. "Prior to COVID, we know that few older Canadians used the internet. They may have had internet, 60 or 70 per cent, but our surveys at CARP showed only about half of them or less actually used it.
"COVID, of course, brought them into going online, using Facebook, using Zoom, using FaceTime, so they've been quite more comfortable using social media and online."
However, VanGorder told The Todd Veinotte Show that many older adults still don't completely understand online platforms.
"They don't understand their risks," VanGorder said. "Especially Atlantic Canadians, they're very trusting. They don't believe that anybody would try to scam them, so they've been much more susceptible to those kinds of frauds."
He said some scammers have picked up on that trusting nature, using it to exploit several Atlantic Canadians.
But the internet isn't the only platform where older adults are getting scammed in Canada.
In early March, the RCMP warned people of a phone scam targeting grandparents, one that's affected at least two in the Halifax area.
The "grandparent scam" typically involves a teary-eyed scenario where a phone caller — who claims to be a family member, oftentimes a grandchild — urgently needs money.
During the phone call, the grandparent usually responds to the greeting by asking if they're speaking to their grandchild, disclosing their name in the process.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, more than $75 million has been lost to scams this year as of the end of February. Since then, there have also been more than 7,900 victims of fraud.
Despite the increase of fraud, VanGorder said most of the scammers aren't being caught and punished.
"There are ways this could be done if we had the cooperation of the companies, the public, in general, and the police and regulations," VanGorder said. "One of the problems is, we still don't treat this kind of fraud as hard as we do others."
Compared to other crimes such as robbery, he said the punishments for scammers are not as severe.
"If you robbed a bank and took $5,000 and got caught, they'd throw you in jail for however long," he said. "You can take $200,000 from a senior and get a slap on the wrist and get hardly any jail time at all. We need to have the laws in place so that they can be enforced."
VanGorder said CARP suspects 70 per cent or more scams towards older adults go unreported since many victims think there will be no enforcement or they're too embarrassed.