Madam Speaker, it is with special interest that I rise to speak to Motion No. 203 regarding fraud against seniors. The reason I say that is because my riding, Trois-Rivières, has a unique feature. It is one of the rare ridings, if not the only riding in Quebec and Canada, where people stay young at heart longer than the national average.
If you look at the Quebec averages for people aged 65 and older, the riding of Trois-Rivières is a whole six or seven points above the national average. This issue, this population and my constituents aged 65 and older are near and dear to my heart. I am quite anxious to speak to this motion because it affects them directly, for a number of reasons. I will expand on that later in my speech.
I hate to date myself, but back in the day, when we had mail instead of emails, it was pretty easy to see that some things were too good to be true. My parents subscribed to Reader's Digest, which could be found in every possible waiting room, including at the doctor, at the dentist, and in many private residences. I suspect that, even back then, they were selling subscription lists to all kinds of companies. We therefore often received tickets for sweepstakes, giving us a chance to win ridiculous sums of money if we returned all the necessary documents, which my parents and I never did.
These types of schemes have gone digital. Today, there are many offers on the Internet. You can win astronomical amounts of money, trips abroad, computers or all kinds of goods. We know that this can be questionable advertising or even fraud, which we must protect ourselves against.
I would like to give you an idea of the extent of Internet fraud, which affects seniors in particular. In fact, that is why we are discussing the issue. We are talking about $10 billion a year, which is an astronomical sum. On a per capita basis this amounts to $300 per person. Every Canadian could potentially be defrauded to the tune of $300 a year. We know that is not the case. Fraudsters always target the most vulnerable people. The amount of $300 per Canadian is not accurate. The amount is much higher for those who are victims of a well-organized fraud ring.
Statistics show that 44% of the people interviewed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre were directly defrauded or a member of their family was. Everyone is aware of the problem. That said, when discussing such statistics, it bears remembering that statistics can be misleading.
People who are ripped off can feel naive or simple-minded. It is important to remember that the strategies used by fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated. They elicit feelings of concern in their targets, who fall for the scam because they think they are doing the right thing. When people realize that they have been scammed, they do not boast about it. Very few people admit that they did not pay enough attention and failed to identify all of the telltale signs of fraud. On this information alone, it is safe to assume that the actual figure is probably much higher than what the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is reporting.
Today, seniors make up 13% of the population. In 2036, they will make up 25% of the population. At the rate things are going, 2036 might as well be tomorrow.
I would like to mention another statistic before approaching this captivating subject from another angle. Earlier, I was saying that fraudsters target the most vulnerable individuals.
Often, people with low incomes are among the most affected, for all sorts of reasons I will explain later. Let us look at our $300 per Canadian, a figure that does not make sense, because not everyone is targeted equally. Moreover, the people who are most often scammed are those who are the most vulnerable and who have the lowest incomes. It is a big problem.
In 1995, low-income seniors made up 3.9% of the population, so say almost 4%. In 2000, they made up 7.6% of the population, or almost 8%. According to the most recent figures, they made up 11% of the population in 2013. I see absolutely no indication that the situation has gotten any better in 2019. We can see it. The wealth we create in our country is always very poorly distributed. The rich become richer while those who struggle to make ends meet continue to bear the burden, unable to live the dream that our consumer society urges us to pursue.
Oftentimes, this aging population—or rather, as I said earlier, those who stay young at heart longer—is subject to a number of factors that make it increasingly vulnerable. In practical terms, we call these the social determinants of health. What are the social determinants of health? There is a person’s economic situation, which I mentioned earlier. There are also health problems. We know that we are living longer, but not necessarily in good health. Dementia-related diseases are on the rise. We see the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and others that are more likely to affect seniors and that make them more susceptible to potential Internet fraud.
Illiteracy is also a very serious problem. We often hear about functional illiteracy. This relates to people who went to school, sometimes to the end of primary school or high school. They sometimes even have a high school or college diploma, but they might not necessarily grasp all the subtleties of a text in their daily lives. Believe me, fraudsters are masters at writing up offers and putting the right images on websites that look entirely credible, if one does not have the resources needed to look further than the image presented and do the necessary comparisons. For instance, we often use the connection rate to claim that, since 80% of Canadians have Internet access, that means almost everyone in Canada can be reached online.
Successive Conservative and Liberal governments have counted on the fact that, since the government is online, every Canadian can find answers to their questions on government websites. I am sure that, like me, many members have had the experience of navigating various government websites on behalf of their constituents. As many will have seen, just because the site exists and the answer is there somewhere, does not mean it is easy to find. It takes skills that go well beyond simply having Internet access.
We are being told that the Canada Revenue Agency has plenty of online resources to help prevent fraud. Once again, the solutions being provided fail to meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we are seeking to protect. We could also talk about proficiency in English.
I will conclude by saying that, for a long time now, the NDP has been advocating for a national strategy on seniors that does more to protect seniors against fraud.
I will certainly support this motion in the hopes that we will eventually go even further.