Planning for the unexpected in retirement: falling victim to a fraud or scam

By Linda Lamarche, CFP‌Ⓡ‌ 15 June 2022 3 min read

Even if you’ve done great retirement planning, and anticipate your desired level of income will last throughout your lifetime, there are unexpected events that can derail your plans. In this series, we cover four scenarios, and how to mitigate risk and ensure your future is protected no matter what happens.

As we’ve seen with the recent public fascination of real-life pop culture swindlers, including the likes of Anna Sorokin (aka Anna Delvey, the fake german heiress), Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos founder) and Shimon Hayut (aka Simon Leviev, more commonly known as the Tinder Swindler), even the rich, educated and powerful can fall victim to a scammer—not just the elderly or vulnerable. That being said, those in retirement are more likely to be victimized through fraud. 

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, (CAFC), in 2021 there were 106,637 reports of fraud, 67,724 victims of fraud and $380 million dollars lost to fraud. The two scams responsible for the highest amount of dollars lost in 2021 were investment scams and romance scams.  

A common scam that targets seniors is the emergency scam. Scammers will claim to be someone you know and tell you they are in trouble and need money immediately. Grandparents may be particularly vulnerable. The scammer pretends to be their grandchild and begs their grandparent not to tell their parents that they are in trouble. The grandparent doesn’t find out until after they’ve sent money that their grandchild was not the person they sent the money for. 

The CAFC offers the following tips and tricks to protect yourself from scammers:

  • Don’t be afraid to say no
  • Do your research
  • Don’t give out personal information
  • Beware of upfront fees
  • Protect your computer and online accounts

Additional details for each of these and other steps from the CAFC for protecting yourself can be found here

If you have investments held within a securities account, another step to protect yourself is to  name a "trusted contact person" for your account. Regardless of your age or stage of life, this option has been introduced to protect all investors from financial exploitation as a result of theft and fraud. Electing a trusted contact person is not a replacement or substitute for your power of attorney. Your trusted contact would not be authorized to make transactions in your account; instead, the intent is for the financial institution to have someone to reach out to if they are concerned you are being financially abused or exploited. 

Whether it's a romance scam, a relative in trouble scam, or any of the other financial scams that are increasing in frequency, having a trusted contact person (ideally one with no current or future interest in your financial affairs) is one more step to ensure you are protecting yourself from the unexpected. Other strategies to prevent fraud can be viewed on ATB Financial’s 7 tips to protect yourself from scams and fraud.

There are many other unplanned situations you may experience in retirement that could create havoc with your finances. Regardless if the situation is one we’ve discussed above, or some other incident such as an unexpected health event, your adult children requiring financial assistance or an unexpected home maintenance cost, basic financial management strategies can help mitigate such events. Having an emergency fund, ongoing budgeting and making appropriate adjustments to your financial plan are essential for protecting your financial security. 

Retirement planning doesn’t stop once you start retirement. It is important that there is ongoing review of your financial plan and the assumptions that have been made. You may have to adjust your goals or make adjustments for life expectancy, inflation, your investment allocation or withdrawal strategies. An ATB Wealth advisor can work with you to review and monitor your plan and keep you on the path to reaching your lifetime goals. 


Read more articles below to learn about other common scenarios that can impact retirement and how to create a plan that protects your goals.

Planning for the unexpected in retirement

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