As we enter a long-weekend (and hope for some decent weather), more and more measures are being put in place to allow more freedom and movement for all of us.
I do want to deviate from my habitual market commentary, though, to talk about something that happened to one of my clients.
Many of us have loved ones or family friends that are in long-term care facilities. It's especially difficult on them during this isolation lock-down: confined to their rooms or apartments in retirement buildings. Some of their neighbours and friends in the buildings have passed away, and no ceremonies or celebrations of their lives possible.
One of my clients, let's call him Jack: he calls me up a week ago and leaves a message that was out of character: "Joshua, do I have 20 thousand dollars US in my account to spare?"
Of course, I called him back immediately. Jack is in his long-term care facility, with no outside visitors for more than two months. His food delivered to his door. His children or any outside visitor is not able to visit him, and he hasn't been outside. Unfortunately, he's not only highly vulnerable to the virus given his age, but he's also vulnerable as the target of an unscrupulous scam artist who has been calling him for weeks, touting the merits of investing in wine, promising 20% returns. This man, with a British accent, built a relationship over many weeks.
Fortunately, Jack did have some reservations and did want to hear my opinion before making this "investment decision." When he spoke with me, he provided an internet name that the cold-caller had provided him: I looked it up, it was a dummy web-site. And this individual's name, his LinkedIn account was fake. After the call with my client, I then called the client's son. He, too, had been getting calls from his Dad, asking about what he thought about making a wine investment. So collectively, we convinced Jack that it was not a good idea to invest in what was a scam.
But it highlighted to me the serious issue of Senior telephone fraud. Particularly in this environment where Seniors are isolated, they are no doubt even more targeted. I was saddened to read that it is estimated that over 10% of Seniors fall victim to consumer fraud every year. Not all of this is cold-calling fraud: one of my clients tells me that she needs to go through each bill in great detail, as she is often "accidentally" charged more at the grocery store or in restaurants. It just makes me angry to hear about these things.
I have a few suggestions and best practices that we can implement for those in our care or life that are more susceptible to telephone scams:
- Make sure that you register their phones, mobile and fax numbers on the National Do Not Call List: Online at http://www.LNNTE-DNCL.gc.ca or by telephone at 1-866-580-DNCL (3625). Often we forget to this, moving from their home to retirement facilities.
- There are call privacy measures that we can set up. This is the link for Bell: but all the carriers in North America provide the same service for free, where Callers with a private or unknown phone number will be asked to identify themselves before the call is allowed to go through. There are also Call screen options to block unwanted numbers selectively.
- Provide them with a "script." If they don't recognize the caller, have them hang up. Or simply give them my phone number: I can do something like this, to fight back.
Of course, this is a long-awaited, long-weekend. As many of you know, I will be looking forward to playing golf, as golf courses open. One of my colleagues at work, got to play at a legendary course in Florida earlier in the year (sadly, I did not get an invite), the venerable Seminole Golf Club. It's hosting a special televised event, showcasing their course which has never been filmed before (I know, I've lost all the non-golfers at this point!). However, for the first sports prediction I have made in months: I am picking the underdogs Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff to win the skins match against Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, which will be live on Sunday afternoon. Enjoy the long weekend.