Much of the fraud perpetrated today gains access to people’s funds through online or phone scams. But a recent scheme discovered throughout Ontario has older homeowners facing the loss of their life savings and the equity in their home – and the troubles seem to originate with door-to-door equipment rental sales. According to a recent CBC News report, vulnerable older homeowners have been tricked into signing mortgage papers with a one-year term and 25 percent interest, and in many cases, homeowners didn’t know they had a mortgage until it came due.
The elaborate scams may also involve older adults agreeing to have renovations done on their homes with the promise of receiving money back. The home is used as collateral, and seniors have signed papers they do not understand, putting them at risk for homelessness after sending cheques or money wires for questionable home renovations.
Door-to-door rental equipment contracts for HVAC systems, surge protection, water softeners, security cameras and digital thermostats, when attached to a home, can be fixed to the property title as a lien until the contracts end or are paid off. Scammers target a vulnerable homeowner and bundle these liens into a high-interest mortgage, telling homeowners they can help consolidate debt into one monthly payment.
Although several families are fighting these mortgage transactions in court, some victims of the scam have been forced to leave their long-time homes. Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) began investigating this scheme after receiving phone calls in the summer of 2022. ACE advocates for a provincial ban on liens on residential properties and to ban all door-to-door sales of products and services exceeding $50.
The Ontario Provincial Police advises homeowners to answer the door only if they expect a guest and hang up on unsolicited phone calls. Never share personal or financial information over the phone or by email, and do not sign blank documents. Never sign anything without fully reading and understanding it – especially if a financial company approaches you to offer help to consolidate debt.
Learn more about protecting yourself and loved ones from scams and fraud through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.