Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

Festive gift of online safety to protect your parents from fraud

UAE residents heading home this festive season should help their elderly relatives protect themselves from hackers

People older than 65 are less likely to reuse passwords than younger generations, an AARP survey found. Photo: Getty
People older than 65 are less likely to reuse passwords than younger generations, an AARP survey found. Photo: Getty

All of us are vulnerable to fraud. But how the older generation use technology can put them at higher risk. That is where you come in. As many residents return to their home nation for the holidays, it could be the perfect time to help parents and grandparents with tasks to be more secure online.

Check privacy settings

Identity thieves glean details from social media accounts that they can use to impersonate others. Unfortunately, many people have no idea how much information they are exposing to the world.

"If you've never changed your Facebook privacy settings, everything you post can be seen by everyone," says Doug Shadel, lead researcher on consumer fraud at AARP, America's largest nonprofit organisation for the elderly, and author of Outsmarting the Scam Artists.

Your mother may love the birthday greetings on her special day, for example. But publicly posting birthdates, full names, addresses, relationship status, hometowns and other key details makes it easier for someone else to answer security questions that give access to your mum's accounts, Mr Shadel says.

Facebook offers a privacy check-up link, accessible via the question mark at the top of every page, that allows people to quickly adjust some of their settings. Also show your parents how to access their privacy settings from the drop-down menu to the right of the question mark. If you’re not sure where the privacy settings are, search the website’s name plus “privacy settings” on Google to find the link.


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Boost login security

Security experts say it's essential to:

* Use strong passwords of eight characters or more

* Never reuse passwords

* Add two-factor authentication when possible.

People older than 65 are actually less likely to reuse passwords than younger people, an AARP survey found. Only 36 per cent of the older crowd use the same password on more than one site, compared with 55 per cent of those ages 18 to 49.

That may be because older people have fewer accounts to keep track of, Mr Shadel says. Anyone who has more than a handful of passwords quickly realises how hard it is to keep track of them all. To stay safe, Mr Shadel recommends people use password managers such as LastPass or 1Password to ensure they are using strong unique passwords, particularly for financial and email accounts.

Not all security experts are convinced that password managers are the solution. For example, Avivah Litan, distinguished analyst at business research firm Gartner, worries about trusting any one company to guard your information. She suggests other methods, such as writing down passwords in disguised form that only the user can translate.

Even strong passwords can be hacked, though, so Ms Litan also suggests people help their parents add two-factor authentication to their important accounts. With this protection, they typically will be texted codes to use in addition to their passwords.

"It really raises the bar," she says. "It's much harder for criminal to hack into their account."


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Set up online access and alerts

Only one-third of people older than 65 have online access to all of their financial accounts, the AARP survey found. People should have that access so that they can monitor their accounts for fraudulent activity, Mr Shadel says. Weekly check-ins are a good goal.

“A lot can happen in the 30 days you’re waiting for that statement,” he ays.

Once your parents have online access, show them how to set up account alerts that will notify them via email or text of unusual activity that could indicate fraud.

Help freeze their credit

After the massive 2017 data breach at Equifax, one of the three big credit reporting agencies, security experts recommend consumers freeze their credit reports from their country’s credit bureaus. Credit freezes prevent potential lenders from accessing those credit reports, making access harder for identity thieves.

Unfortunately, only 14 per cent of adults have set up those freezes, even though they are free, Mr Shadel says. It’s also free to temporarily lift a freeze, so consumers can apply for new credit when they want it. You can help your parents set up freezes and find a secure place to store the log-in credentials or PINs they’ll need for any thaws.

These methods are not foolproof, but the aim is to be just difficult enough to victimise that the fraudsters move on to the next target.

"If you put up any resistance at all, your chances of being a victim go way down," Mr Shadel says.

Updated: December 16, 2018 07:15 PM