By Jenn Watt
It is society’s view of its oldest demographic that contributes to elder abuse journalist and radio personality Dale Goldhawk told an audience at Pinestone on Thursday March 3.
Speaking as part of the Safe and Secure Seniors day hosted by the Elder Abuse Prevention Network Goldhawk gave example after example of seniors who had been exploited by con artists and criminals.
“I often think it’s the last discrimination that is still routinely practised and still tolerated” Goldhawk said. It is still practised because of agism he posited.
“Once you engage in agism and you lessen the importance and impact of a whole group of people in society – once you’ve used such terms as geezer or tell somebody an Alzheimer’s disease joke – you diminish older Canadians. You attack the very respect they should be shown” he said.
It happens all too frequently. According to Elder Abuse Ontario between two and 10 per cent of seniors are abused though that number might be low due to under-reporting.
Goldhawk opened the discussion on Thursday by showing printed photographs of a 97-year-old woman who had been beaten in her own home. Family members had insisted she was becoming bruised and battered from falling so often. That case ended up in court but many instances of abuse don’t.
Financial abuse is just as rampant if not more so. It can range from being conned on the telephone or online to having a so-called friend or family member finding ways to gain access to an older person’s money.
“The con artists out there target older Canadians” he said. It wasn’t because seniors are more gullible he said it’s because they come from a different more trusting time.
The Canada Revenue Agency scam is one of the most rampant. That’s when someone calls claiming to be from the CRA. They insist that you owe taxes which must be paid immediately. Usually they threaten jail time or other punitive measures and are quite aggressive. Goldhawk told the audience that the fraudsters in some cases have moved beyond harassing phone calls and in one case he knows of have sent people knocking on a potential victim’s door.
He told another story of a woman in a convalescent home who spent some $25000 buying junk that was sold to her over the phone. When she ran out of money the con artists actually showed up at the home and told her she owed more. They took her out of the home and tried to wheel her to the bank. Eventually they gave up on that endeavour leaving her stranded on the street.
Audience members were given an opportunity to ask questions and tell their own stories. Several had been targets of various frauds and a couple of them talked about the computer scam where someone calls from “Windows” telling you there is something wrong with your computer. If you let them they will gain access to your machine and steal information or money from online bank accounts.
No one is under obligation to be nice to people on the phone Goldhawk reminded everyone. If you’re not expecting a call or a visit you don’t have to take it or even be friendly.
Goldhawk told the audience that the best way to protect yourself from fraud is to remain cautious and skeptical; there is nothing wrong with objecting to something that seems wrong.
He ended his talk with the last line of his book Getting What You Deserve: “don’t put up with a system that screws people and never go quietly.”
March is Fraud Prevention Month. The OPP is reminding people that there are ways to prevent and report fraud. You can call your local police the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
The Anti-Fraud Centre also has a comprehensive list of known scams which might be helpful in avoiding falling victim. Go to www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca for more.