–Vancouver Policy Department, Crime Prevention

Many seniors list “fear of crime” as one of their biggest concerns.

Statistics show, however, that for most crimes, seniors are the least victimized group. Also, much of the crime that is directed at seniors occurs while they are out of the home, such as break and entering.

However, when the crimes do occur, the consequences are often more severe for those at an advanced age. Many seniors live on a fixed income, so the loss of money or property is difficult to replace. Also as people get older their bodies take longer to recover from injury, so an attack on a senior generally has a much more serious outcome than a similar attack would on a younger counterpart. As such, steps should be taken to reduce the chance that you could become a victim of crime.

Here are some ways to best protect your home and yourself.

Elder Abuse

In the past few years, more and more cases of abuse of the elderly have been brought to the attention of the general public. There are many different types of abuse, and some of the main ones are:

  • Financial – This abuse can include a person being forced to change their will, or having their property sold or given away without their consent, or with forced consent. It can involve withholding certain funds, such as a pension check, from the rightful recipient. No one has the right to do these things to you, even if you have given someone power of attorney, they are obligated to act in your bests interests not theirs.
  • Physical – This can encompass common assault and restraining the individual for long periods of time, either by locking them inside, tying them down, or over medicating them so they cannot get out of bed.
  • Psychological or Emotional – No one should be subjected to insults, threats, intimidation, or yelling. However, this form of abuse can also include acts such as denying a person access to their friends and family, withholding certain rights and privileges. Or else it can encompass invading a person’s privacy by interfering with their mail, telephone calls, or money matters. It also manifests itself in the denial of a safe environment, food and personal care, hygiene, medical and legal services, or preventing opportunities for worship.

In you or any senior that you know of are the victim of any type of abuse, contact the local authorities.

Home Invasion

For the past few years, a number of home incidents have garnered a large amount of media attention. While these incidents are few in number, they tend to have severe consequences.

If you are the victim of a home invasion, try to co-operate as much as possible, possessions can be replaced, they are not worth your health. Try to remember any distinguishing features of your assailants that you can tell the police about afterwards. Finally, call 9-1-1 as soon as it is safe to do so.

There are certain precautions you can take to limit the chance of you becoming a victim of home invasions.

  • Keep your doors locked at all times – if there is a knock at the door, verify the identify of the person through a peephole there before you open it;
  • Make sure your door is made of solid wood or metal – a door is only as strong as its frame, so install a metal frame or have the current frame reinforced;
  • Place a security film or Plexiglas on the inside of the window, as it increases the difficulty in breaking the glass;
  • Keep a phone handy – if you have a cordless one, take it to the door with you when there is a knock at the door.

Home Security

Do not have cheques mailed to you, as many criminals can figure out when monthly pension checks arrive and will attempt to intercept them; see your bank about having your cheques direct deposited.

Purse Snatching

Purse snatching is one of the few crimes where seniors represent a greater proportion of those victimized. The best way to prevent becoming a target is to not carry a purse. However, for many people this is not practical. So if you are going to carry a purse here are some tips to both reduce the chance that you get targeted for this crime, and also to limit the damage if you are attacked.

· Walk with your head up high and with a sense of purpose, since attackers target those whom they consider to be easy prey
· Wearing the strap across your body makes it harder for an attacker to take the purse off you, BUT if you are attacked it increases the likelihood of injury
· Carry keys and identifying documents in your pocket, so that if your purse is stolen the thieves can’t break into your house later on
· Do not carry large amounts of money if possible

Senior Centres

Senior centres are important, as they provide a safe and nurturing environment for seniors to interact socially. They provide clinics and orientation meetings to help seniors learn effective techniques that they can utilize in the outside world in order to remain self-sufficient. Also, if any problems or situations do come up, senior centers tend to have access to the respective authorities to resolve these problems.


While many seniors fear physical attacks, the criminal group that seems to target them the most is con artists. It may sound simple to turn down these offers, but the people talking to you will be extremely charming and convincing. Remember they are out to sell something so it is up to you to guard against being taken advantage of.

The following are some of the more popular con scams:

“Pigeon Drop” – These types of scams involve someone contacting you claiming that you have won a large amount of money, or an expensive prize of some sort. The sender needs you to send “good faith” money, generally a small amount when compared to the promised winnings, to a certain location before they can deliver the prize. The victim sends the “good faith” money and the con artist is never heard from again.

“Bank Examiner” – A person will contact you claiming to be a representative of some form of financial institution. They will ask for your help in catching a crooked employee at their business. They will ask you to withdraw a certain amount of money and then send it in to a certain address to they can examine the serial numbers on the money. Of course, after the money is sent in, the examiner disappears into thin air.

“Funeral Chasers” – After a loved one has died, families will occasionally receive goods in the mail, which the company will claim were ordered by the deceased before they died. The company will then demand payment for the delivered goods, which sounds hideous, but it still happens. Does it seem like something that the deceased would have ordered, or does it seem overly expensive? What company is sending the product? Is it a well-known one or is it a fly-by-night company? Contact the Better Business Bureau in your area to check up on the company.

“Pyramid Scheme” – Victims invest money into a company, and are promised greater returns when they convince others to join. When the pyramid collapses, the only one left with the money is the person on top, and they have often already skipped town.

“Free Inspection” – This scam will involve a door-to-door repairman offering free inspections in the neighbourhood. The end result of the inspection will invariably be that expensive repairs are required immediately. A variation of this scheme is that a repairman will come to your door claiming to have just finished a job in the vicinity and that they have “surplus” materials that they are offering door-to-door at bargain prices. In this instance, “surplus” generally means stolen or defective merchandise that the scammer has acquired and is trying to pawn off on you. Whenever you contract out work on your home be sure to get at least two different bids on the job, to ensure you’re not being overcharged. Make sure you ask for references and follow-up on them and remember that no reputable company would ask for payment up front. Also, contact the Better Business Bureau about any potential contractor you’re considering to make sure that they are in good standing in the community.

“Fake Charities” – If someone calls you at your home, or shows up at your door claiming to represent a charity ask them for their charity registration number, which every charity in Canada has. Ask for a pamphlet and if you are interested in donating money, take the time to call Canada Customs and Revenue Agency at 1-800-267-2384 to make sure that the charity is in good standing. If you do wish to donate money, look up charities that support causes that you believe in.

An important thing to keep in mind at all times is if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.