1st Jul, 2022

How to talk to older people about financial scams, as firms are fined for ‘predatory’ calls

Five ‘predatory’ firms have been fined £405,000 by the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) for marketing phone calls targeted at vulnerable and elderly people.

In one case, an individual had £7,500 of their £8,000 savings drained in just over a month, while another elderly person with short-term memory loss was being charged £500 a month for insurance they mostly did not need.

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

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.”

Protect your identity

“The best way to protect older friends of family members is educating them on what their digital footprint is, and in turn how to protect it,” says James Walker, CEO at Rightly.

Photo of James Walker, CEO at Rightly. Picture credit: PA Photo/Handout.

That means protecting the information that exists about an individual on the internet as a result of their online activity.

“By encouraging older friends or family members 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

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.”

And beware of sellers peddling ‘limited time only’ deals, he adds. “If an offer is genuine, it will be available without having to accept it over the phone there and then,” says Wearn.

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.

Photo of Jamie Akhtar, CEO and co-founder at CyberSmart. Picture credit should read: PA Photo.

“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.”

Where suspicious phone calls are concerned, Walker says:

“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.”

To avoid email ‘phishing’ scams, Javvad Malik, lead security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, recommends:

“It’s best to be extra cautious about clicking on links in emails or downloading attachments. These are the main ways that either passwords are stolen, or malware is installed on machines. When in doubt, chicken out.”

Strengthen passwords

“Another important tip is to have a strong and unique password for every account or application, and change them frequently,” says 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.”

For more helpful tips check out Action Fraud. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.

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