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How to Protect your Parents from Fraud


Published June 26, 2024 • 5 Min Read

Fraudsters assume seniors have a pile of savings in the bank, a high level of trust, more time to answer phone calls and emails, and limited digital savviness. No matter how accurate this is, older adults are popular targets for cyber criminals. You can help protect them.

Here are four ways you can help protect your parents from fraud:

1. Talk to them

Cyber fraud against seniors is not only very common, but also highly underreported, as many seniors are embarrassed to have been fooled by scammers. Talking to them about cyber crime and making them feel safe and comfortable coming to you can go a long way. It’s important to reinforce that if something feels off (i.e., they receive a strange email or phone call), they can turn to you with questions. Be sure to emphasize that fraudsters are extremely clever and create scams that are very convincing – they are often personal, relevant, and sentimental.

And if they do get scammed, that you’re there for support. Providing patience and understanding will result in you becoming their go-to in the case of issues to help guide them through next steps. 

2. Share resources and articles

Cyber scams are continuously evolving and there are new scams – or variations of old scams – cropping up all the time. Talking through red flags and how to protect against scams can make a meaningful difference in keeping your parents finances and information safe.  To help keep the people you care about up to date about the latest threats, share RBC’s Cyber Security hub – it’s is a comprehensive resource of articles and videos that is consistently refreshed with the current scams and security tips. Check it regularly and share updates with your parents so they are up to speed. Our Cybersecurity Checklist for Seniors is another excellent resource to help keep them informed.

3. Help them set up security measures

There are several ways your parents can build up their defenses against cyber fraud. Here are some measures you can help set up for them:

  • Strong passwords: Passwords are the first line of defense against fraudsters, but many people have less-than-ideal password behaviour. From having simple passwords (such as “password”) to using the same passwords for every site, many online users leave themselves open to hacking. Strong passwords are important – and while they can feel like a pain to set up – they are invaluable in keeping information safe. Take a look at Why Strong Passwords Matter and How to Create Them and share the tips with your parents

  • Multi-Factor Authentication: Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), also known as 2-Step Verification or Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), makes it harder for cyber criminals to steal information because it uses two separate factors for identification. One is typically a username and password, while the other could be a cellphone. While some apps and websites use MFA automatically, some leave the decision up to the user. 

  • Face ID and fingerprint features: Like with MFA, these biometric features add an extra layer of security that help keep data secure.

  • Alerts: There are several types of alerts that send a notification if there is out-of-the-ordinary activity on an account. A fraud alert will notify them by text message if there’s an unusual Interac e-Transfer transaction made or if a credit card transaction appears out of place. Your parents can also opt into transaction alerts, which send a notification if, for instance, an account balance drops before a certain set threshold, or a large purchase is made on a credit card. Signing up for alerts is an excellent way for your parents to stay on top of their money and activity within their financial accounts. 

  • Set up Autodeposit for e-transfers: This service eliminates the need for a security question and answer in every transaction, reducing the risk that someone unintended could intercept the funds.

4. Follow them on social media 

Social media isn’t just for the younger generation. More and more older adults, including seniors aged 65+, are active on social platforms. According to research, over 43% of seniors were active on social media last year, including Facebook X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram. 

As there are many scams that are executed through social media, it might be worth friending or following your parents on the platforms they use. This way, you could spot any suspicious people in their network, take note of scams that pop up in your own feed, and caution them about oversharing. For instance, posting sensitive information such as their phone number and address can give scammers easy access to them. Even details such as their pet’s name and grandchildren’s birthdays are details that could be used to guess passwords and steal vital information. And if they’re posting pics of themselves on vacation, you can warn them that this signals to criminals their house may be empty.

While older adults are common targets, they don’t have to be easy victims of fraud. If you’re there to offer support and guidance your parents have a much better chance of spotting fraud, avoiding scams, and keeping their finances and their information safe.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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Cyber Security Cyber Tips Family Parenting Retirement