How to talk to older people about financial scams

Scams target people of all ages and backgrounds, however, some scams are more likely to target older people.

Last year, Australians lost more than $236 million to scams, with people aged 65 and over reporting the highest percentage of losses (15.6 per cent).

People aged 35 to 44 had the second highest number of reports (15.3 per cent), followed by people aged 25 to 34 (14.4 per cent).

“The more we talk about scams, the more awareness we have, and the harder it is for scammers to steal our money or personal information,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about being scammed, because it can happen to anyone, but sharing your experiences with others can help disrupt and prevent scams.”

It’s worrying to think that a mature friend or relative, who perhaps isn’t quite so tech-savvy could fall prey to these unscrupulous companies, but there are ways you can help protect your loved ones.

Here, financial experts offer their advice on how to talk to older people about keeping their money safe.

Remind them it can happen to anyone

Man on phone and laptop
(Alamy/PA)

Money can be a tricky topic whatever your age, so if you want to broach the subject, be careful not to lecture or patronise. And keep in mind that being targeted into parting with money can potentially happen to anyone.

“It’s important to note that not all older people are tech illiterate, and may take umbrage at receiving advice on avoiding scams,” says Ian Porteous, regional director of security engineering at software company, Check Point. “However, it can and does happen to everyone, so if you are concerned, do reassure your older friends and family that it’s not just them, we can all get duped.”

Read: How to have that tricky money talk

Protect your identity

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The best way to protect older friends or family members is by educating them on what their digital footprint is, and in turn how to protect it. A digital footprint is the information that exists about an individual on the internet as a result of their online activity.

Encouraging them to avoid ticking the ‘third parties’ box and intentionally misspelling their names on websites they are suspicious about is a great way of preventing data sharing and making it harder for scammers to steal their identity.

Don’t panic

Stressed woman on phone and laptop
(Alamy/PA)

Elderly or vulnerable people may begin to panic when faced with, for example, someone on the phone trying to convince them they urgently ‘need’ a certain type of insurance.

“Scammers know this and will often pressure people into making quick decisions and mistakes,” says Carl Wearn, head of e-crime at cybersecurity specialists Mimecast. “Advise your elderly family to always take their time, slow things down, and ask them to consider what information they would like to see before making any commitment or decision, particularly any financial one.”

Also, beware of sellers peddling ‘limited time only’ deals. If an offer is genuine, it will be available without having to accept it over the phone there and then.

Read: Reasons you might be on the phone with a fraudster 

Be suspicious
“As depressing as it sounds, try to encourage them to be suspicious of all online and phone communications,” says Jamie Akhtar, CEO and co-founder at CyberSmart, who recommends finding out how how their bank and utility providers usually contact them.

Once you know this, you can advise them never to respond unless the communication comes through the usual channels. Advise them that they should never, under any circumstances, respond to requests for personal details or money over the phone or online.

When it comes to suspicious phone calls, reminding friends and family members to always hang up the phone if their bank calls them and to call their bank back, is another way to get that extra reassurance.

It’s best to be extra cautious about clicking on links in emails or downloading attachments to avoid phishing scams. These are the main ways that either passwords are stolen, or malware is installed on machines. If there’s any doubt, don’t click.

Read: Password managers explained

Strengthen passwords

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“Another important tip is to have a strong and unique password for every account or application, and change them frequently,” says Mr Porteous. “Make sure your older friends and family know what a ‘strong’ password means – instead of using a single word, use two or three and swap out some of the letters for numbers and symbols.”

And if they find complex passwords harder to remember? “Consider using a password manager to help keep their devices and personal information protected.”

– With PA

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Written by Katie Wright

Fashion and beauty editor at the Press Association.

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