Manitoba Indigenous-owned tech company helps elders spot scams

An Indigenous-owned and operated tech company in Manitoba has created a scam prevention workshop focusing on elders.

Teqare co-owner and co-founder Zachary Flett was inspired after he heard his grandmother nearly get scammed over the phone.

“I could hear her on the phone,” he said, “like, ‘OK, I’m going to go to Wal-Mart, I’m going to get some gift cards’. I told her ‘Hey, this is a scam, hang up the phone.’”

Flett just happened to be visiting at the time, but wondered about elders who weren’t so lucky.

“I think there’s a lot of older folks who don’t have that person to tell them, and that’s kind of where we come in,” he said.

Flett and his business partner, Dorion Ducharme, created a workshop covering common scams someone using a computer or phone might encounter, like romance, phishing, and text-based scams.

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It also includes advice on what to do if they’ve been targeted. Their goal is to help the older generation, particularly those living in remote First Nations communities, stay connected.

Ducharme and Flett held their first workshop in March during an elder’s gathering in Winnipeg put on by Sagkeeng First Nation. Ducharme says many who had been targeted had shame around the fact they’d been scammed — something Teqare wants to help with.

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“There’s no shame with that. All it is is education, and knowing better for next time,” he said.

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Once the nerves had settled, Flett and Ducharme say the participants were eager to learn how to protect themselves.

“We have elders put up their hands in the middle of the teaching in the middle and say, ‘I have a story!’ and we can kind of go into that and answer the questions that they have,” Ducharme said.

So far, he adds, the feedback they’ve gotten from participants has been positive.

“One of the elders at that event said that they don’t have a landline and they don’t have a cellphone, but after that scam prevention workshop, they said they wanted to go out and get a cellphone,” said Ducharme. “They felt more comfortable and confident navigating that.”

Corrine Player of Sagkeeng First Nation was at the gathering and attended Teqare’s workshop. She herself has been the victim of fraud.

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“They had asked me my full name, my date of birth, my questions that normally I’m asked to get into my account,” she said.

“It was about five or 10 minutes later when I snapped out of it and I said, wait a minute.”

Player had fallen for a convincing phishing scam, and the scammer withdrew hundreds of dollars from her account that same day. Though she eventually got refunded by her bank, she says it was an invasive feeling, knowing someone had gotten into her account.

“It’s always in the back of my mind, like, what are they going to use this information for next time?” she said.

It’s that anxiety Ducharme and Flett aim to alleviate with the workshop.

“That’s our intended desire, is that they leave feeling like all their questions are answered,” said Ducharme, “and [that they feel] more comfortable online, rather than confused or scared. We really want to bring down that anxiety.”

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They’re hoping to bring the workshop to communities in Manitoba after seeing how connection can improve elders’ lives.

“We want to be as accessible and as accommodating as possible when providing these workshops as well,” Flett said.

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