Madam Speaker, I want to thank and congratulate my colleague from Richmond Centre for this worthwhile motion, which comes at the right time for seniors. They are happy to know that their elected officials in Ottawa care about their well-being and are thinking about them.
I want to read out the motion so that those watching at home can understand what we are debating today. My colleague from Richmond Centre moved:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the disproportionate effect of fraud activities against the seniors community across Canada; (b) coordinate a national response to fraud activities to ensure that seniors and other vulnerable groups have the resources they need to understand the signs of fraud; (c) establish tangible recourses for victims of fraud; and (d) work with local law enforcement agencies and the Canada Revenue Agency to introduce legislation to combat fraudulent attacks targeting vulnerable seniors.
This motion is absolutely essential. Not a week goes by without a vulnerable person becoming a victim of fraud. With the advent of the Internet and various increasingly accessible modes of communication, it is becoming easier all the time for bad people to target seniors with their schemes.
I recently read a report that said that all types of fraud, including fraud against seniors, were on the rise. There is one fraud that everyone has heard of. We all received a message this year from the Canada Revenue Agency saying that a $200 tax refund was waiting for us if we just sent our bank account number. Seniors are vulnerable, but these messages are so sophisticated that in five years, the total amount of money taken from victims went from $300,000 to more than $6.4 million a year. That is money being taken from vulnerable people and all those who fell for the scam. From 2014 to 2018, the number of Canadians who were tricked went up tenfold. If the trend continues, these numbers will increase even more.
If Canadians from all walks of life are being fooled by people who are able to manipulate these messages on the Internet, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for seniors to separate fact from fiction when they are just beginning to understand the joys of new telecommunications services, the Internet and computers.
There are many cases of Internet fraud, of course, but that is not the only kind of fraud. It is important to mention that. There are people who take undue advantage of their interactions with seniors to abuse their trust and steal their hard-earned life savings. La Presse reported on an 89-year-old Montrealer who said that he was shocked to discover that all of his $360,000 savings had disappeared from his bank account. The money had been taken by someone close to him, someone he knew very well.
Fortunately, that case is before the courts, but it takes a lot of courage and energy for seniors to go to court and speak out about these situations. That is not what seniors want to be doing at their age. They want to be using the money they saved and enjoying their retirement, but some of them lose everything overnight because somebody, somewhere, took advantage of their trust.
Often, these seniors do not realize that they have been the victims of fraud until it is too late and they have nothing left in their bank account, because the people who were put in charge of looking after their money are the ones defrauding them and taking advantage of them. It is completely unacceptable for people to take advantage of vulnerable seniors for their own gain.
I will not list off examples right now, but I imagine that we have all, at some point, witnessed things that seem relatively minor. It is not always $360,000. Sometimes, a grandson or a supposed grandson might put undue pressure on a senior to help out with just $5,000 or $2,000.
Grandparent scams are becoming more and more common, and we hear about them a lot. Someone calls a senior and passes himself off as one of the senior's grandsons. Everyone knows some grandmothers have a lot of grandsons. People used to have lots of kids. Some grandmas might have had 16 kids, and if those kids each had 16 kids, grandma might well have 72 grandsons.
Maybe grandma gets a call from Thomas, who says he is stuck in Mexico and cannot leave and desperately needs $2,000 to get back to Canada. Maybe someone used grandma's kid's Facebook account to come up with enough names to pass for the grandson. Naturally, grandma does not want to leave her grandson stranded all alone in Mexico because he got mixed up in something criminal or got into a fight or whatever.
Grandma wants to help. That is why we love our grandmas. Unfortunately, some people have made a fortune passing themselves off as grandsons because seniors live alone, they might not be well off, nobody takes care of them, nobody protects them, nobody looks out for them and nobody makes sure they know what they need to know.
The fact is, these scam artists are fearless and unscrupulous. Wherever they look, they see potential victims, people they can rip off.
There are people in seniors' homes who steal credit cards that are up for renewal. They have access to all of the seniors' information. It is easy for them to call the credit card company and request a new PIN, since they have access to all of the information the bank will ask for before changing the PIN.
It is scary how many ways there are to abuse people who are trusting.
There are a couple of lines in the La Presse article I mentioned that I must talk about before I wind up. The Montreal police offered advice to seniors to help reduce the risk of fraud. I said “reduce” because it is impossible to eliminate fraud entirely.
The first tip is to never disclose personal information to support staff in their home. They must also never give personal information to someone who is working around them. Personal information can be given through a well-known and trusted loved one, although, once again, we are only talking about reducing risk.
Furthermore, seniors should never disclose personal information, such as bank account numbers or social insurance numbers, via email or text message. This information should not be given out over the phone either.
It is important to shred any documents containing personal information. That is how people in positions of trust get the information they need to access seniors' bank accounts.
Seniors also need to memorize their personal identification number and never write it on their card. All too often, people write their PIN on the card. Seniors should never tell anyone their PIN, even if they are getting someone to do their shopping for them. If they give someone their PIN, they are giving them access to their bank account.
It is important for seniors to keep their chequebook in a safe place, not in the same place as their identification.
Those are just a few simple tips. Every police force, whether in my riding or in Montreal, is trying to do more to increase awareness.
However, I think we need to go even further. That is why I am grateful to my colleague from Richmond Centre for moving this motion. I hope that it will go further and that the Canada Revenue Agency will take all necessary steps to reduce fraud against seniors as much as possible.