By Joel Wittnebel/Active Senior’s Digest
It’s a fantastic deal seen on TV, it’s an email from a far distant relative claiming they need money to get out of legal trouble, it’s a letter allegedly written by a child in Africa asking for money to stave off starvation. All of these things appear to be different, but really they are all the same, they’re scams.
Recent numbers show that approximately 40 per cent of seniors have been affected by these scams over a five-year period.
One of these seniors has a grandson who decided to do something about it. His name is Kai Stinchcombe and he has started a company that looks to protect seniors from these predatory organizations.
Stinchcombe explained that his grandmother was in the habit of donating to charities every month and had a “generous heart.” But as she aged, it became hard to keep track after she become afflicted with memory loss.
“She started losing track of how much she was spending. So it grew from giving away $50 once a month to give away $50 every day,” said Stinchcombe.
The family searched for a solution to the problem, even asking the bank if they had any protection systems against this type of thing, Stinchcombe said, adding the bank suggested taking away her cheques and bankcard. However, the family opted not to do that.
“The loss of independence associated with not being able to spend your own money…you can’t do anything without spending money anymore,” he said. “Like so many families, we ended up deciding it wasn’t worth it, that we would try to take steps, or create a work-around to avoid the financial losses associated with this.”
Now, Stinchcombe, CEO of True Link, has a True Link Visa that allows seniors to maintain their independence while being protected from scams with a system that can identify a scam when it attempts to take money from a credit card in one fifth of a second.
“You can go to the grocery store, go out for ice cream, whatever it might be, but if you’re being victimized by one of these predatory organizations, or when you’re making mistakes, we’re able to block the charges and keep your money safe,” he explains.
Many of these types of scams exist today and all operate in different ways, but with the same objective of taking a person’s money.
Stinchcombe says the Buyer’s Club scam has been widespread in 2014. It’s a fairly new scam, so new in fact that Stinchcombe himself wrote the Wikipedia article on it.
The scam involves a legitimate business making individual great offers on products as long as they become a member of a buyer’s club and provide their credit card information. However, another organization is lurking behind the club.
“You think this buyer’s club is some other organization and so you don’t believe you’ve ever given them your credit card number. So when it starts showing up on your credit card statement, it’s literally like you’ve never had a conversation with this organization, you’ve never heard of this organization and yet you’ve given them your credit card number and authorized them to bill you month to month,” Stinchcombe explains.
Scams are also products of their environment and Stinchcombe said his company sees peaks in certain scams related to whatever is in the news.
“Whatever is in the news at any given time, people will sort of prey on that,” he said.
With the recent outbreak of Ebola in Africa, Stinchcombe says they have seen a surge in the number of scams asking for money to support a victim of the disease.
While the True Link Visa is yet to be available in Canada, Stinchcombe offers his advice to protect seniors from these types of scams.
“The first rule is if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”
Having a conversation with family and having multiple sets of eyes on finances also helps prevent these types of intrusions Stinchcombe says.
“Have that conversation early and get comfortable with having multiple sets of eyes on thing,” he said.
And don’t be ashamed if it happens, Stinchcombe says. Many seniors may be handling their finances alone for the first time in their lives, having always done so with a member of the family or a partner.
“It doesn’t make you a dumb person, it doesn’t mean you’re not good at managing your money,” he said. “In fact, it probably means you’re a generous person, that you got preyed on for trying to help people suffering from Ebola, or that you’re a polite person and don’t hang up on telemarketers when somebody else would.”