How to protect grandparents from online fraudsters

Published: 9 February 2021

The elderly need our attention, not only on Safer Internet Day. Around 820,000 grandparents and great-grandparents surf the internet with some degree of regularity, which means they enter the digital world at least once a week, but they are less aware of the risks of this virtual space than younger, more accomplished users – reveals the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, raising awareness on Safer Internet Day.  Information on mandatory precautions, virus and data protection as well as the safe and conscious use of tools can reach the older generations primarily through their children and grandchildren. So youngsters play an enormous role in making their grandparents aware of suspicious emails, advertisements, and handling their personal information carefully. Safer Internet Day highlighting the benefits and dangers of the world wide web is a great help in this, on the occasion of which the NMHH has collected some simple tips to prevent online fraud.

Despite initially causing some difficulty for many due to the touch screen and the relatively small icons and buttons, the majority of people over 65 adapt quickly to smart phones too. The vast majority of 65-year-olds and above who use the internet (85%) have and use their own mobile phones, and most of them (81%) browse the net on them too. The majority of the elderly have not only adapted well to smart phones, they have grown fond of their devices too, which are important in their lives and they are attached to them. The bulk of over-65 smartphone internet users (57%) say they already feel out of sorts if they do not have their gadget with them – reveals the 2020 internet survey conducted on behalf of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH). (Data source: NMHH research, A review of electronic communications market users: Internet survey, 2020. Preliminary figure)

While digital solutions and tools have become widespread and frequently used among those 65 and above due to the pandemic, this generation is not prepared for the risks that internet use might pose if not handled with due care and awareness. Yet they are more at risk than average users with regard to abuses such as phishing, shopping scams or fraudulent prize competitions.

Elderly people can expect to receive most support from their children and grandchildren, since in digital matters they mostly follow the advice of their offspring. This is why it is important that youngsters become sufficiently familiar with net safety issues to be able to help their elderly relatives with good advice. Fortunately, a few simple precautionary measures are enough to prevent our elderly relatives falling prey to such malicious endeavours.

The NMHH’s 5 points for the online safety of the elderly:

1.Virus protection

Make sure your grandparents’ telephones, tablets and computers are equipped with active virus protection, and the operating system on the devices is continuously updated. In the same way you should update the programmes and applications they use, or warn them about this.

2. Data protection

Help them protect their personal data by using strong passwords, ensuring they save these appropriately, and making sure they do not share them with anyone, even if they receive a seemingly official request to do so.

3. Mandatory precaution

Teach them how to give the necessary care and attention to links in electronic mails as well as suspicious websites and posts with fraudulent intent. Make them learn the principle of “avoid if suspicious”, and show them how they can unsubscribe from such content.

4. Online self-defence

Give them guidance on how they can preserve their digital identity, so they do not disclose any information about themselves which might lead to abuse, even by accident.

5. Digital comfort zone

Help them establish a digital environment on their smart phones or laptops where they can easily and safely manage their banking or other official matters and online shopping.

Those aged 65 and older are at high risk not only from COVID-19, but also from online abuse” – emphasises Éva Tafferner, NMHH communications director. Thus a seemingly simple question such as what mobile virus protection is appropriate requires more careful attention from their children and grandchildren. “Knowledge transfer is generally directed from the elderly towards the younger generations, but the digital world is an exception: in this area, younger people are much more accomplished than the older members of society” – says the expert. In her view, knowledge sharing among the generations can help the world wide web become an even safer place for all age groups than it is today.