Community Meeting Recap: Ocutherapy with Alex Theodorou

BY: JULIA RENAUD

BIST’s August Community Meeting was an Ocutherapy demonstration with Alex Theodorou.

Picture of Community Meeting Speaker Alex Theodorou, Founder & CEO of Ocutherapy.
Alex Theodorou

 About Alex

  • Alex’s father sustained a stroke in 2005, changing the lives of him and his family forever.
  • This event lead Alex to pursue a master’s degree in neurolinguistics from McMaster University. He wanted to find a way to improve the lives of people living with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and other cognitive difficulties.
  • In 2016, Alex came up with the idea of Ocutherapy, a Toronto-based Virtual Reality (VR) program aimed at improving speed of recovery for individuals in post-acute care rehabilitation programs. The company was launched in 2018 and its momentum is strong.

Ocutherapy uses virtual reality to bring together patient and practitioner to inspire, motivate, and educate in the recovery journey. [It] offer[s] interactive experiences that make the healing process both engaging and intuitive.

 Health care and brain injury

  • ABI is one of the most common neurological conditions.
  • Treating ABI can be costly to the health care system and patients may receive limited treatment.
  • Limited care, high drop-out rates, and potential for re-injury can leave patients feeling defeated.

Clip art of a person in a science lab, with seekers, computers and lab equipment

 Features of Ocutherapy:

Patient-centered

  • The program learns from the user to determine the level of difficulty.
  • It tailors its exercises to help train the areas of the brain and skills that are most important to each individual.
  • A check-in is included at the end of each game to get feedback about how the user felt the game went.

Utilizes a connected rehabilitation approach.

  • Data can be easily accessed by health-care workers to better track the progress of each patient.

Beneficial and fun!

  • There are different tasks involved with each game allowing the individual to stave off boredom while focusing on key areas of the brain.
  • Works on fine motor movements and can enhance quality of life.

Accessible

  • The virtual reality headset and controller make Ocutherapy portable, improving access to care.
  • The headset can be worn with or without glasses.
  • The headset also utilizes bone conduction technology. This permits the user to hear the sound without having their ears covered and, if you aren’t the wearer, you don’t hear any of the sound at all, which is very cool!

Intuitive

  • Since Ocutherapy throws away the traditional method of therapy*, it learns from the user and adapts the program accordingly all while tracking progress.

*For me this involved the wall clock, laser and stick pointers, tones of papers and tape everywhere to name only a few. Also, if I never had to see the letter ‘A’ again, I would be completely fine with that!

Who could benefit from Ocutherapy?:

  • Ocutherapy aims to improve speed of recovery for individuals in post acute care rehabilitation programs.
  • Benefiting individuals include those who have experienced or continue to experience effects from:
      • ABI
      • Neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s)
      • Aging
  • Ocutherapy may aid with memory, attention, spacial orientation, brain fog, and mood, to name a few.
  • Due to the nature of the VR device, Ocutherapy may not be ideal for individuals with:
      • Visual impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses.
      • Motor impairment affecting the hands.

Why haven’t I heard about Ocutherapy before?

  • Ocutherapy is in its early stages and is in the midst of being trialed and tweaked.
  • Early testing has been conducted; however, Alex and his team continue to adapt the program, improving its accessibility, technology, and ease of use.

Want more info about Ocutherapy?

  • Check out the official website: www.ocutherapy.com where you can meet the team, read articles about Ocutherapy and watch Alex’s Tedx Talk.
  • Have any ideas, suggestions, or questions? Alex and his team would love to hear from you!

Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.

 

 

Advertisements

Community Meeting Recap: Chair Yoga with Julie Notto

BY: JUlLIA RENAUD

June’s Community Meeting was a chair yoga workshop by BIST’s Programs and Services Coordinator, Julie Notto.

About Julie Notto

  • She discovered yoga as a way to deal with chronic pain issues.
  • Julie became a yoga and Pilates instructor and taught for over ten years. She was also a yoga teacher trainer.
  • She has taught movement classes at many locations including at university, a wellness centre, and within the corporate sector.

What is chair yoga?

  • Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice which involves using various breathing techniques, exercises, and meditation to improve overall health for the body, mind, and spirit.
  • While yoga is commonly practiced using just a mat and the body, a chair can be incorporated to make it accessible for everyone!

Why practice yoga?

  • Yoga is great for your overall health, including brain health. It can be relaxing, rejuvenating and wonderful for improving circulation to the brain and body. Increased circulation means more oxygen is transported to body’s organs, and more toxins get cleared out from the body, including the brain.
  • Incorporating the three basic movements of flexion, extension, and rotation, yoga can be a great way to stretch sore and tired muscles and can also be challenging enough to act as a form of exercise.
  • Yoga is great for brain health! It’s a modifiable and fantastic way to be active at the pace your brain and body need.

How do I start?

  • Find yourself a chair; any chair will do, as long as it doesn’t have wheels! It’s best to be able to plant your feet flat on the ground while you are seated. If your feet dangle or your heels can’t quite touch the floor, get creative and find an item that can help give your feet a boost. You may try folding a yoga mat, using a step stool, or even a sturdy shoe box!
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. Try one exercise and see how you feel. Check in with your body (and brain) throughout to make sure you are working at your own pace.
  • Scroll down for some exercises!
breathe in slowly gently deeply breathe out
Image via yogagreedom.com.au

Breathing techniques for yoga

  • Remember that there is no right or wrong way to breathe; each breath will be different. Relax your shoulders and breathe however is comfortable for you.
  • To keep your mind focused on your breath, try saying ‘in’ with each inhalation, and ‘out’ with each exhalation.
  • If you’re more of a numbers person, maybe you would prefer counting breaths: inhale with the count of one, exhale with two, inhale with three to ten. When you reach ten, start again at one.
  • When doing poses, try to take three complete breaths at the peak of each individual movement. If three breaths feels like too much or too few, adjust accordingly to what feels right to you.
  • While breathing, feel the support of your breath, bones, and gravity.

Exercises

Give these a go to strengthen your legs, increase blood flow, improve balance, and to calm the mind and nervous system.

Strength

Chair Cat-Cow Stretch

Chair yoga
Image via enable.me
  1. Sit tall on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands atop your thighs or knees.
  2. While breathing in, arch your spine and roll your shoulders down and back. This pose is called cow.
  3. While breathing out, round your spine, gently dropping your head and rolling your shoulders forward. This pose is called cat.
  4. Ease between cat and cow at your own pace, being mindful of your breath.

Chair Downward Facing Dog Stretch

chair downward go
Image via sleeysantosha.com
  1. Make sure the chair or table you are using stays sturdy throughout this pose to prevent face planting onto the floor! If using a stand-alone chair, push it against the wall before beginning. The goal is to not move the chair during this pose.
  2. Stand facing the chair, placing your hands atop the back rest.
  3. Walk your feet back until your upper body is extended, keeping a slight bend in the knee and heels on the ground.
  4. Lift your pelvis and feel the stretch as you extend through your spine, while breathing with intention for several breaths.
  5. Walk your feet back in, and roll up from the base of your spine to the top of your head.

Balance

Chair Tree Pose

chair tree pose
Image via acefitness.com
  1. Stand with the back of the chair facing the side of your body, rooting your feet into the ground and holding on to the back of the chair with the closest hand.
  2. Slowly and carefully, lift the foot opposite the chair off the ground, pushing its sole into the side of the supporting leg in one of these variations:

Lower: Keep the toes of the raised foot touching the ground so your heel is roughly upper-ankle to mid-calf height.

Higher: Place the sole of your foot higher along the supporting leg, above or below the knee. Keep your knees happy by not putting your foot on the joint itself – knees aren’t made for this type of lateral pressure! Press your raised knee out to the side to open your hip and raise your free arm above your head. Breathe! Repeat on the other side.

Side Bend (Half Moon):

  1. Stand tall, with both feet together and rooted into the ground. Inhale while bringing your arms overhead and pressing your palms together.
  2. Shift your hips left while bending your torso and arms right to make a crescent shape with your body. Press your knees together for balance.
    Hold the pose and breathe.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.

 

 

 

How to redefine yourself after brain injury

BY: ALISON

Most people don’t realize that the most painful part of living with a serious health issue is losing your identity.

When every day things – that you’ve never given any thought – become difficult and you’re no longer able to do the things that you enjoy, you constantly feel self-conscious, misunderstood, and pressure to be who you once were, especially around people that knew you before your injury/illness.

It feels like you’ll never stop grieving the loss of your old self. To cope with this and to pre-emptively explain themselves, I’ve noticed that a lot of people with brain injuries are very quick to share a detailed recount of their medical history, even with people they’ve just met. This makes me sad to hear, because it means that they have likely turned their injury into their identity. As a result, the injury becomes the only thing that their peers see in them, too.

People from this community also tend to talk more about their past lives than their current ones. For example, they often tell you about the things they used to do; i.e. their past careers, the sports they played, or their hobbies, talents, and skills from before their acquired brain injury. This may be because, on some level, they worry that the current version of themselves is lesser than their original version. Although this line of thinking is understandable considering the constant reminders they have of their new limitations, it is completely untrue. Here’s how I changed the way that I define myself and how I measure my self-worth now.

After a debilitating brain injury, I wasn’t able to tolerate any form of stimulation which meant that I wasn’t able to do anything. I couldn’t even lift my head off the bed to take a sip of water without excruciating pain and exhaustion. At my lowest point, I was absolutely useless to the world and had become a huge burden to my caregiver. But luckily, I have always believed that every life serves a purpose and adds value to the world. So, I refused to accept the notion that I had become worthless. First, I allowed myself to mourn the loss of my old life and then I accepted the reality that things would never be the same. I never gave up hope that things would improve but even if they didn’t, I resolved to do the best with what I had and live my best life. The next step was to figure out who the new me was.

I asked myself, who am I if I can not work, socialize, or volunteer anymore? Can I still tell people that I love to travel if I may never travel again? Am I still considered a TV and movie lover if I no longer watch them? Am I still a foodie if I can’t cook or eat in restaurants? That’s when I realized that I had been using the wrong definition of “self” all along, because I had based my identity on things that I “do”.

Who we are is not simply a sum of our jobs, likes and dislikes, and strengths and weaknesses. Even our thoughts don’t make us who we are; it’s what we do with those thoughts that does.  Eckhart Tolle coined my favourite philosophical definition of the “self”. Paraphrasing in my own words: The real you is the part of your mind that’s aware of your thoughts.

Too often, we base our self-esteem on measurable things such as salaries, belongings (e.g. cars, jewellery, wardrobe), size (e.g. waist, chest, bicep, etc.), fitness abilities, and achievements (e.g. professional and conventional life stages). I decided that I would define myself and measure my self-worth based on the choices that I make. Every time you try again, exercise patience with yourself, focus on what you have as opposed to what you don’t (or how far you’ve come as opposed to how far you’ve left to go), show appreciation to people that have helped you, or do something that helps your health (e.g. drink a glass of water or stretch), you’re building character and proving your value. Internal decisions such as these are significant victories, especially in the face of struggle.

So, who am I? Before my brain injury, I would have answered that question with my profession, travels, and plans for the upcoming weekend. Now, I will tell you that I am grateful and funny, that I’m learning, I persevere, love dogs, and care about others. The more important question is, who are you?


‘Mind Yourself with Alison’ is a collection of self-help tips, research, and personal experiences dedicated to helping people thrive after brain injury (or other health problems). Check out Alison’s other BIST Blog articles Women and Brain Injury: What you need to know and How to be a Good Friend to a Survivor.

 

 

 

 

The future is now: virtual reality as a potential new therapy for brain injury

BY: ALISON

The worlds of brain injury rehabilitation and Virtual reality (VR) are coming closer together.

The technology for VR is advancing very quickly, including multi-player games and the development of devices that involve your entire body to create highly realistic virtual experiences (e.g. driving or flight simulations). Toronto has a VR arcade, Ctrl V, that uses top of the line equipment and offers over 52 different VR games.

Ocutherapy is a new company that is developing VR games tailored for people with brain injuries. The hope is that the games will help brain injury survivors practice certain skills including memory, speed, fluid cognitive abilities and coordination, etc.

women wearing Virtual Reality Device
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

The software will track your performance over time. The Ocutherapy games will have simple 3-D graphics and will require minimal VR equipment. The games will be compatible with most of the industry leading VR hardware (head sets and controllers). If you own a Chromecast device and have access to WiFi, then you could display what the player is seeing in the headset onto a WiFi enabled TV or computer monitor, so someone else could watch and help the player figure out the game as needed. Ocutherapy is still in development and is not yet available for sale. Although you will eventually be able to buy the system for yourself (likely before the end of 2019), the company is also working on getting their product into some occupational and physiotherapy offices.

Much like in real life, when you’re playing, you can only see the part of the virtual environment that’s directly infront of you. So, if you’re standing in the middle of a room in the game, you have to turn your head (or your entire body) to see the rest of the room. The controller can sense your spatial presence and hand and arm motions and allows you to interact with the VR environment. You click on buttons to select options, move forward, and pick things up and move them around, etc.

VR has never been formally used as a rehabilitation aid before, so they can’t predict if it will be right for your condition.

Here’s an example of what it’s like to play one of Ocutherapy’s task-oriented games. You start off feeling like you’re standing in the middle of a room. Using the controller, you navigate through hallways and stairs to enter a kitchen. Then you ‘stand’ in front of a counter to make sandwiches based on specific instructions (e.g. four  four slices of cheese, three slices of tomato and three slices of lettuce). Part of the challenge is in having to remember the details of the instructions as you complete the task. You use the controller to simulate picking up a knife and slicing cheese before picking up the cheese slices and placing them on a slice of bread. Then you finish making the sandwich by adding the remaining ingredients and another slice of bread.

If you are interested in trying the games for yourself, Ocutherapy will be offering a demonstration at the BIST Community Meeting on August 28, 2019. Find out more, HERE

I tried Ocutherapy for one session and here are my personal thoughts about the experience (note: I am not a health care professional):

  • The advantages of using VR include:
    • A fun and interesting experience
    • Something new to try
    • The opportunity to learn how to use new technology
    • The ability to practice certain skills in the comfort of your own home
    • Fewer distractions while you’re completing the virtual tasks
    • The headset and controller can be used to play VR games produced by other companies as well
  • Disadvantages of using VR include:
    • The head set felt a little bit heavy for me, so I wouldn’t recommend VR if you have whiplash or if neck strain could exacerbate your symptoms
    • If you are sensitive to light and electronic devices, then VR will be difficult to use, because the screen is electronic and close to your eyes
    • VR can make even perfectly healthy people feel nauseous. I felt nauseous after just a few minutes of playing Ocutherapy, but my most recent brain injury was less than four months prior to that
    • Using VR as a rehabilitation aid for brain injuries is a brand new approach, so there isn’t enough research available to know if it will actually improve the skills in real-life application.

The more advanced the technology, the more real the simulation feels. At a minimum, you must wear a headset and use a hand-held controller. The headset is designed to block your peripheral vision so the only thing that you can see is a small screen placed a few inches away from your eyes.

Learn more about Occutherapy at our August Community Meeting

August 28, 2019, 6-8 pm 

Find out more, HERE

Sign up for the VR Study, HERE


‘Mind Yourself with Alison’ is a collection of self-help tips, research, and personal experiences dedicated to helping people thrive after brain injury (or other health problems). Check out Alison’s other BIST Blog articles Women and Brain Injury: What you need to know and How to be a Good Friend to a Survivor.

 

I chose my health over the job I loved

BY: ALYSON ROGERS

For two and a half years, I worked at a social service agency for youth in Toronto.  I worked as part of a team to provide basic needs and case management to youth from diverse backgrounds.  Every day was different; on some, I ran workshops and danced to Drake in the girls’ dorms.  On others, I spent hours in an emergency room with survivors of human trafficking that had just escaped their exploiter.  Whether it was a day of fun or a day of crisis, I loved my job.

I loved my job so much that I was taking classes while working full time, with the goal of moving up within the agency.  My job combined my passion of working with young people, ability to respond to sexual violence, and knowledge of disabilities.  I loved my job so much that I worked through multiple concussions when I probably should have taken a leave of absence.  I loved my job, but two months ago, I abruptly quit.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

My departure was shocking to my coworkers, the young people I worked with, and even to myself.  When people leave a social service job, they usually have something else lined up. I had no other job waiting for me, and it was not the time of year to be applying to master’s degree programs.  Quitting my job came down to a choice; my job or my health.  I chose my health.

In the span of a year and a half, I had four concussions at work. With new symptoms and challenges, this was the worst my brain injury health had been since my diffuse axonal injury in 2008. Even though I was able to do my job, I was on medication for the first time and felt like I was struggling to stay afloat in such a fast-paced and demanding work environment.

On top of what I was feeling physically, some of my coworkers didn’t take too kindly to the minimal accommodation (working day shifts) I needed.  My own disability began to discredit the knowledge I had of various disabilities that dated back to before I even I had a brain injury.  My goal was to move up within the agency, so I kept how much I was struggling to myself while sharing just enough to keep the accommodation I needed. It was a fine balance.

In the New Year, I took a short contract in another department; the work was similar, but I had the freedom to work at a pace that accommodated my brain injury needs.  A few weeks in, I saw a huge improvement in my health; I had fewer symptoms, felt less fatigued and was able to participate more in my life outside of work.  My contract ended early and I was expected to return to my previous position.  This also meant returning to brain injury symptoms.  I’d had a taste of a life that didn’t only consist of work and brain injury symptoms, and I wasn’t going back.

I got a doctor’s note, spoke to the appropriate external agency for support, and came up with my own ideas, but no further accommodations were available to me.  I always knew that the decisions I made as a Youth Worker could lead to repercussions, but I never thought my disability would be used to carry them out.  The writing was on the wall – I was done here.  As much as I loved my job, I loved my health more.

On the last day of my short contract, I packed up all my things with the help of a few friends and slipped out the back door. I knew I wouldn’t be back. A few days later, I quit from home by e-mail. I had previously booked a vacation that overlapped with my two-weeks’ notice, and used my sick days to cover the rest.

Everyone was surprised by my abrupt resignation because I loved my job so much, but was it really that abrupt? For over a year, I worked in an environment that simply tolerated my disability. When I spoke about anything, let alone disability, I was met with eye rolls, and a flood of unrelated and unfounded complaints were brought to my supervisor. The youth group I facilitated couldn’t get any support, but blossomed after I left. When I had a medical emergency and needed to go to the hospital, I was left on my own until a supportive co-worker found me. Two of my head injuries were caused by the same environmental factor that remained unchanged at the time of my resignation. Looking back, I should have quit much sooner.

I loved my job.  I miss the youth I worked with and the coworkers that supported me, but I have no regrets about resigning.  I thought picking between the job I loved and my health would be a hard decision when I was finally faced with it, but it wasn’t.

I can (and did) find another job, but I can’t find another brain so I need to keep this one as healthy as possible.


Alyson is 26-years-old and acquired her first brain injury ten years ago. She graduated from Ryerson University and is a youth worker at a homeless shelter. In her spare time, Alyson enjoys writing, rollerblading and reading. Follow her on Twitter @arnr33 or on The Mighty.

 

Useful tools or symptom inducers? On using smartphones when you have a brain injury

BY: BLUE HELMET GIRL

I had my accident in July 2015, right in the middle of the smartphone era. About a month after my TBI, I was in the hospital and I got my phone back for the first time. I tried to reply to a text. It didn’t work. My brain tried to tell my fingers to type, but nothing happened. The connection was lost.

Four years later, the connection is back. And now, I rely on my smartphone more than ever for certain things. There are so many pros with smartphones when dealing with a brain injury, but there are also cons.

smart phone with image of devil horns "OR" and angel halo

Pros:

  • Calendar: Having a calendar app on my phone is what I rely on the most. My app can set reminders for events. I have inconsistent appointments, so I set the event to remind me the day before. Also, having your schedule with you is helpful for planning stuff on the go.
    • App I use: iCal
  • Reminders: If I remember I need to pay a bill but I’m away from home, right away I put it in my reminders app. If I don’t do this, I will forget it by the time I get home. I set reminders at a specific time that I know I will be available to do this task.
    • App I use: Reminders (iPhone)
  • Medication Reminders: Sometimes I’m in a rush and forget to take my meds. Every day, I’ll get a reminder at the same time. If I forget to take it, I can use one of the extras I carry with me when I’m out.
    • App I use: Pill Reminder
  • Headache Tracker: I find tracking headache symptoms on the go helpful, rather than trying to remember how I felt the next day. It’s not ideal to be looking at a screen with a headache, but it can pay off to notice patterns with symptoms.
    • App I use: Headache Diary Pro
  • Step counter: Monitoring my steps throughout the day is helpful for my energy levels. When I reach 10,000 steps, I know it’s time to rest or I will burn out.
    • App I use: Health (iPhone)

Cons:

  • Blue light: That nasty blue light on your phone is the worst for your eyes and can be a nightmare when you have a headache. For me, I find it drains my energy if I look at it too long.
  • Social media (energy): I can get into a deep Internet hole with social media accessible at any time. I set myself daily limits and when I reach them certain apps will lock.
  • Social media (emotional): Seeing friends living their best lives while I’m at home on the couch sucks. This can be detrimental for a person’s mental health, especially if their injury prevents them from doing certain activities.

In conclusion, there are a lot more pros than cons to my smartphone usage. There aren’t many cons, but those that exist can be significant.  All one has to do is find strategies to deal with the cons so that the pros can be enjoyed. In a way, we are lucky to have smartphones to help us deal with our injuries, and make life a bit easier.


The Blue Helmet Girl is a woman in her mid-twenties who acquired a TBI 4 years ago, and after 3 open head surgeries, has recovered remarkably. With a high level of organization skills and self-awareness, she hopes to help others by sharing her unique story and strategies. In her spare time, you can find her hanging out with her dog, taking pictures or writing in her journal.

Follow her on Twitter @theBHjourney, on Instagram @bluehelmetjourney or www.thebluehelmetjourney.com

 

 

 

 

April 2019 Community Meeting Recap: Protecting Yourself from Scams and Phishing with Jason Peddle

BY: JULIA RENAUD

BIST’s April Community Meeting featured guest speaker Jason Peddle, Vulnerable Persons Coordinator at the Toronto Police Services who spoke about protecting yourself from scams and phishing.

Police Officer Jason Peddle

About Jason Peddle:

  • With a background in Kinesiology, Social Work, and Dementia Studies, Jason has worked as a Therapeutic Recreationalist in nursing homes and as a Family Support Worker at the Alzheimer Society.
  • He switched vocations in 2006, and for 10 years worked as a Police Officer in various roles, including front-line policing.
  • As his career progressed, his interest in Community Focused Policing led to his appointment as Toronto Police Service’s Vulnerable Persons Coordinator, a role h he has done for three years.

What to know about scams:

  • Anyone and everyone can be a target of a scam
  • The goal of the scammer is to get your money now OR
  • Get your personal information to use to get your money later!

The 5 Hallmarks of a Scam

1.     Unsolicited

They came to you without your request, such as by phone call, e-mail, door knocking etc.

2.     Urgency

They want you to do something right away or else, such as ‘pay now or you will get arrested!’

3.     This is routine

If you question them, they will assure you that what they are doing is completely normal. They talk quickly and give a lot of information so there is less time to process it. They will try to convince you that if you question them, you are in the wrong, such as ‘I have checked all of your neighbours’ water heaters; your neighbourhood seems to have particularly bad water heaters.’

4.     High Reward & Low Risk.

Pay attention to your gut! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The potential reward for these criminals is high for very little risk.

5.     Payment Up Front.

They want the money right away, not later.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

  1.  Follow up with contact info that you find yourself.

Don’t rely on the text displayed on your caller ID, even if it says your bank’s name; fraudsters can change the caller info that comes up on your phone! Yikes!

2. Don’t rush decisions / do your homework.

If someone threatens you with a time limit, it’s a fraud.

3. Don’t let people into your home.

Stand your ground, it’s your home and you have the right to say who comes in and who doesn’t.

4. Don’t share personal information, no matter how meaningless it may seem.

If the person is legitimate, they won’t mind your precaution.

Scam artists are sneaky

They look like you and me  – often they look professional and have impressive offices/addresses and they are very good at what they do!

Examples of Common and Current Scams

  1. Someone claiming they are from the Canada Revenue Agency contacts you asking you to pay your taxes right away.

This is the most common scam every year because people keep falling for it.

2. Emergency

Someone calls pretending to be someone they aren’t saying there is some kind of emergency and  you need to respond quickly. This is also called the “grandparent scam” as the elderly are often targeted.

3. Advance Fee

You’ve won a prize but need to send money in advance.

4. Misleading Prize Offer

You win the lottery or  a prize for a contest you didn’t enter.

5. Romance

This is the most profitable scam and can happen online or in person. Someone pretends to fall in love with you; then they ask for money, often more than once.

6. Non-Existent Charity

Someone asks you to donate money to charity using a recent, real life tragedy to make them sound credible. If you want to donate, reach out to the charity of your choosing using contact information from a reputable source.

7. Account Info Update

Someone contacts you to update your information.

8. Online Purchase

You as the seller: an interested buyer (intentionally) overpays. The buyer claims they made an error & asks you to send back the difference using an untraceable method (i.e. wire transfer). The payment ends up being fake and you lost your money.

You as the buyer: you don’t receive the item(s) you paid for.

9. Door to Door

Someone claims  they need to enter your home to check or service something that you had not arranged (i.e. furnace, water heater, duct cleaning service, etc.).

Many types of door-to-door sales are now illegal.

Know about your rights regarding door-to-door sales and home service contracts, read more about Ontario’s regulations concerning door-to-door sales, HERE.

Phishing

Phishing happens when cyber criminals trick you into giving information. When you respond, they get access of your accounts or download ‘malware’ to your computer. Here are some tips to prevent being a victim of phishing: And importantly, if you receive an e-mail you don’t trust, delete it without opening it!

Phishing Scam Examples:

  1. The Email Scam

Clues that it’s a scam:

  • The spelling of the sender’s address doesn’t make sense.
  • Generic/non-personalized greeting.
  • A link to click on.
    • Careful, the listed link isn’t always the actual link!
    • Hover your cursor over the link beforeclicking it to make sure the links match; if they don’t, don’t click on it!

2. The CRA Scam

Clues that it’s a scam:

  • Generic/non-personalized greeting.
  • The dollar sign is on the wrong side of the numbers.
  • A link to click.
    • Clicking it could cause malware to be downloaded onto your computer. Uh oh!

How to Tell If you’ve been a Victim of a Scam:

  • You notice unexpected changes in your account.
  • You receive credit cards you never applied for.
  • You receive notice that you have been denied credit that you didn’t apply for; or, you are denied credit for no apparent reason.
  • You receive correspondence from debt collectors.
  • Credit report shows accounts that aren’t yours or contains inaccurate information.
  • Bills or statements you still receive by mail stop coming.
  • Unsolicited proposals come more often.
    • This is because fraudsters sell information of victims to other fraudsters.

Who to call if you’ve been victimized 

Toronto Police: 416-808-2222

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: 1-888-495-8501

Better Business Bureau: 519-579-3080

Check your credit with a credit bureau you trust.


Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!