By Eve Ferguson.

Most grandparents are now joining the world of smartphones, social media, internet banking and following the global pandemic, online shopping. So, how do you explain to a trusting generation that some people on the internet are just plain evil?

My Nan, who is quite tech savvy – probably more tech savvy than my Mum, experienced many electronic hurdles throughout the lockdowns. Pre-Coronavirus these could’ve been solved by family members, popping in to sort the issue.  Of course, the Covid restrictions over 2020-2021 made this very difficult – leading to frustrating facetime calls, which usually involved that classic question: ‘how do I flip the camera, again?’

One of the issues that sticks out the most are communications she got from her mobile provider. They texted, emailed and even wrote to her saying they were sending her a new sim card in the post and that she had a few days to transfer all of her data from the current sim in preparation. This deadline and the style of the emails and texts – containing clickable links and phone numbers to call – led me to believe it was your classic phishing attempt as she hadn’t requested a new sim, and she wasn’t due an upgrade. But surely sending emails, texts and written letters was a lot of effort just to try and get one lady to give over a few details and possibly some cash?

I obviously told her not to click on any of the links or use any of the phone the numbers provided, but to use trusted numbers from the internet.  Whenever she phoned her mobile provider, she was left on hold for ages and didn’t really make any progress. She was worried that because she hadn’t complied with the instruction, she would lose all of her phone contacts and other data.  

We weren’t even sure the ‘new’ sim card was coming, we had not requested it, Nan was not due an upgrade so there was every possibility it was a scam.  We were left with the dilemma; Should she just wait to see what happened? Should she try phoning the provider again? Should she just do as instructed on the emails, texts and letter?

Eventually, my Nan finally made progress with the customer care call centre and found out this was all legitimate, the sim did come, and nothing was lost.

But what if it hadn’t been legitimate? What if it was all just some big, elaborate scam?

Many elderly people aren’t as lucky as my Nan, she has children and grandchildren, not necessarily with cyber security knowledge but with enough exposure to social media to know what to do and what not to do.

In 2015, it was reported that 43% of elderly people believed they had been targeted by a scammer. This makes the elderly the most vulnerable to fraudster attacks. Lonely pensioners may be more willing to talk and listen to fraudsters as well as being more trusting towards what fraudsters have to say. 

Following my Nan’s personal experience and my education in Cyber Security, I believe these tips to be helpful when teaching your Nanna about cyber security.

Steps to help your Nanna:

1. Use simple terminology. Most people over the age of 55 don’t know what a tweet, friend request or virus is. This means using scary words such as ‘phishing’, ‘malware’ and ‘hackers’ may worry your Nanna unnecessarily. Try using anecdotes and simple stories to explain a situation.

2.  Teach her why someone might want her information. Psychologists have found that we have clearer memory of information when we can put meaning towards it. When teaching your Nanna try to explain why someone might want her information, if she understands what you are saying then she will find it easier to remember and for her to understand why you’re teaching her these things.

3. Give her tips for things to look out for. Yes, not all scams are the same but a lot of them are built around the same layout. Teach her not to click links or share sensitive information online. If an email tells her to click a link to check her account, teach her to open a new window and log in through a web browser.

4. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Teach her this classic. If a deal online or something being sold over the phone is just too amazing, teach her that it’s probably a scam. 

5. Passwords are important. My Nan’s passwords are as random as British weather – none of them are remotely similar, so much so she has a little book with all of them written down, to help her remember. This little book is far from good practice but it’s more likely that she’ll get scammed online than burgled and her ‘little book of passwords’ being stolen. Teach your Nanna that strong, hard to guess passwords are winners – especially if they aren’t reused. It’s important too that she should know that she shouldn’t share them with anyone. ANYONE. 

6. Take your time with her. Cyber Security is not easy, even for the younger generations, so cut your Nanna some slack. Don’t be tempted to take the device from her and do it yourself because she won’t ever learn herself. Teaching your Nanna cyber security techniques may take time and she may ask you on multiple occasions to go over something you’ve already shown her, but she’ll learn with practice. 

7. Write down step-by-step instructions. This could help her with other technology-based activities too. As well as her little password book, my Nan has a book of things I’ve taught her, like copying photos off her phone and renaming them in a different folder. I also have a little book of instructions I’ve learned and can’t quite remember from my degree course, so there’s no shame in having written instructions – especially if it helps keep you safe. 

8. Celebrate the little wins with her. Like I said before, this stuff is hard. Even if your Nanna has completed something incredibly basic and mundane, to you, celebrate her success.  

So, those are a few of my tips for educating your Nanna on Cyber Security. I haven’t exhausted the list of possible tips, not at all, but hopefully these will help you help your Nanna.   Good Luck!