How Okanagan seniors can outsmart scammers

Protecting your personal ID and banking information is critical

Tugging at your personal heart strings and pressure to respond to inquiries immediately are the two favourite tactics for scammers.

While social media has opened up opportunities for scammers to pilfer your personal banking information, Interior Saving Credit Union’s manager of risk management, Paula Naka, said earning a scam target’s trust is a major part of their plan in ripping someone off.

“They are very good at what they do,” Naka said of scammers. “They are playing on your instincts to help, to the point of pretending to be a friend or a relative, muffling or altering their voice so you think they are who they claim to be in the moment.”

Naka along with Kelowna RCMP Const. Ann Donnelly were the guest speakers at a public forum about scam protection for seniors held in West Kelowna on Monday.

The forum is part of the 5th annual Okanagan Embrace Aging Month series of public presentations throughout March about lifestyle issues facing seniors.

Every year Canadians lose millions of dollars to activities of scammers who bombard us with online, mail, door-to-door and telephone scams.

Naka and Donnelly imparted the importance to protect your personal banking and identification information from anyone you don’t know, whether it be door-to-door salespeople, social media contacts or phone inquiries.

“Know who you are dealing with and never rush into any decision where your personal identification is required,” Naka said.

“We are telling you to be skeptical and not trust anyone you don’t know, but unfortunately in this day and age it is how you have to go about your business,” added Donnelly.

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From an online protection perspective, Naka said seniors should keep their computer software up to date; use strong passwords that are changed on a regular basis; use firewalls and anti-virus software to protect your personal data; use privacy settings such as Messenger rather than communicating openly on Facebook; and set up security alerts.

And both added that account passwords need to be written down somewhere, but that information should be stored away from your computer.

Dumpster diving is an age-old scam tactic for retrieving information, sometimes made easier in the recycling world where paper is separated from food waste.

“We still get a lot of information by mail so everything you throw away should be properly shredded or cut up before being thrown out. I can’t stress that enough,” Naka said.

The urgency phone call—a relative who needs money, a family friend who is in legal trouble, Canada Revenue Agency calling for an immediate payment—are scenarios that constantly probe people with the idea of retrieving personal data or wire money transfers.

“If you get scammed, you are put on what we call a sucker’s list, and chances are you will be hit again,” Donnelly said.

Naka noted it’s important to contact the police if you feel you’ve been victimized.

“Report it to the police right away. There is no need to feel embarrassed. You have been conned by someone who is being paid to con you. These people are good at what they’re doing, ” she said.

The golden rules to help you beat scammers

  • Always get independent advice if an offer involves money, personal information time or commitment.
  • There are not guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes—if it sounds too good to be true it generally is.
  • Do not agree to offers or deals right away.
  • Check the credentials of an individual or company before handing over any money or personal information.
  • Log directly on to a website that you are interested in rather than clicking on links provided in an email.
  • Never send money, or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust.
  • If you become aware of a scam or have been scammed, get help—contact the local police, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (, 1-888-495-8501) or the Competition Bureau Information Centre (, 1-800-348-5358).

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