Consumer Protection for Alberta's Seniors - a Priority of Alberta Government Services

For Immediate Release, Calgary, November 17, 2000

Consumer fraud against seniors is a serious concern in Alberta and throughout North America. As a result, the Alberta government is taking additional steps to make sure seniors in the province know where to turn if they feel they have been targets of consumer scams or have questions about their consumer rights.

Alberta Government Services, the provincial department responsible for consumer services, has launched a consumer awareness initiative - "Know Your Consumer Rights."

"Alberta Government Services promotes a fair marketplace through its legislation, monitoring, enforcement and consumer awareness activities. We want to help Albertans who feel they have been victims of unethical marketing or business practices, especially those who are most vulnerable-like our seniors," said Government Services Minister Patricia Nelson. "We are committed to help seniors by giving them a place to turn to if they have been targeted by consumer scam artists."

Over the next several weeks, seniors drop-in centres, lodges, personal care homes and other key locations in the province will receive fridge magnets and posters that highlight the Government Services' Consumer Information Centre toll-free number of 1-877-427-4088. Since it began operating in May, 1999, the Centre has assisted more than 80,000 Albertans.

"I welcome Minister Nelson's consumer awareness campaign since it is always important to keep reminding all of us, especially seniors, to be on alert for possible scams," said Wayne Hill, Executive Director of the Alberta Council on Aging. "People forget that these scam artists are so creative in finding different ways to try to take advantage of Albertans."

In 1999-2000, Albertans reported losing more than $600,000 to just telemarketing fraud.
Two out of every three of these victims was a senior.

"Through ongoing education and awareness programs, our government also hopes seniors will take more precautions to avoid becoming victims of consumer scams," added Nelson, who noted ABCs of Fraud, Hang Up on Fraud and Wise Owls are consumer awareness and prevention programs that are in place in the province.

"In reducing the number of fraud related crimes against seniors, everyone has to remember not to get caught up in the situation. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said David Ingoe, the Calgary coordinator for the Wise Owls Program, a province-wide initiative that works with seniors to prevent frauds and scams. Wise Owls has chapters in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Camrose.

"Since seniors tend to be trustworthy they are unfortunately convenient targets for scam artists," said Mary-Jean Malyszka of the Calgary Seniors' Resource Society, which runs the ABCs of Fraud Program throughout Alberta. "As a result of this trust for others, many seniors are devastated when they find out they were taken advantage of."

Along with Government Services, Alberta's Community Development Department also distributes over 100,000 copies of the Programs and Services for Seniors Information Booklet that includes consumer awareness information from Government Services on Frauds and Scams.

"Alberta seniors have earned a quality of life that includes security, independence and dignity," said Stan Woloshyn, Minister of Community Development and Minister responsible for seniors. "Reporting these offences is one way to help protect seniors and build a safer, stronger community."

Alberta is home to more than 300,000 seniors, or about 10 per cent of the province's population.

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Media Availability: This morning at 11 a.m., Minister Nelson, seniors and law enforcement representatives will be available at the Calgary Seniors' Resource Society office-George C. Tower, 807-6 Street S.E. (Fridge magnets and posters to be available.)

Attached: Copy of fridge magnet and poster. View colour pdf and black/white pdf or visit our website at www.gov.ab.ca/gs, and click on 'News Releases'.

Contact:

Ed Greenberg - Communications, Alberta Government Services - 780-415-6051

Cheryl Robb - Communications, Alberta Community Development - 780-427-6530 - 780-718-5699 (cell)

Wayne Hill - Executive Director, Alberta Council on Aging - 780-423-7781

Joyce Tutt - Society for the Retired & Semi-Retired - Edmonton - 780-423-5510

Mary-Jean Malyszka - ABCs of Fraud Co-ordinator, Calgary Seniors' Resource Society - 403-266-6200

David Ingoe - Calgary Coordinator, Wise Owls Program - 403-271-1768

Annette Bidniak - Communications, Edmonton Police Service - 780-421-2824

Constable Neville Wells - Calgary Police Service - 403-206-8316