Go to top of page

How to have ‘the talk’ with your older loved ones

18 March 2019

Confusing or frustrating, it can be embarrassing for people to ask for help with their technology.

Our guide will help you find the right words to make the ‘cyber talk’ a bit easier.

1. Cyber security is like home security

Explain to your older loved ones that taking care of their safety online is like safeguarding their home. Here are simple things you can tell them to make themselves a harder target for cybercriminals.

  • Just like locking your front door, it’s important to lock your computer, tablet and smartphone. Use a strong password made up of a passphrase that is at least 13 characters long.
  • We know many passwords can be hard to remember but you need a different password on each device and online account. If you use the same password on your accounts, it’s like using the same key to your house, your car and your postbox. If a criminal gets a hold of your key (or password) they can get access to a lot of your possessions or information.
  • Deadlocks and security screens are extra security for your house. Online, two-factor authentication provides additional layers of security to your online accounts.
  • Installing antivirus software on your devices is like having a security system in your house. It’ll monitor your devices and alert you to online threats.
  • Some personal conversations can be contained to walls of your home, but personal details shared online can be permanent and you may not have control over who sees or accesses them. Beware of what you share publicly online and adjust privacy settings to limit who can see your information.  

2. Be honest about the tough topics

It might be uncomfortable talking about the tough topics with your loved ones such as the risks of being online or ‘where do cyber criminals come from’? But by talking about it they’ll be better prepared to know what to look out for.

You are at risk

Older Australians are an attractive target for cybercriminals because they can have excellent credit histories, access to life savings and superannuation, own assets, may be looking for investment opportunities, and have a tendency to be extra trusting. Already this year Australians aged 55 and over have reported almost 9,500 scams and have lost on average four times more money to scams than younger Australians (ACCC’s Scamwatch).

The consequences are real

Your folks need to know that calls and emails claiming to be from trusted organisations (such as Telstra, Australia Post, a bank or a government department like the ATO) could be from scammers. Scammers pressure people with fake debts or say that their computer has a problem and they need remote access to find it and a fee to fix it. This is a sneaky but also convincing way that scammers get access to personal information and money. Sadly, in many cases money lost to scammers cannot be recovered. Already this year Australians 55 and older have reported losses of $94,000 to impersonation scams and $347,166 to remote access scams.

You can also share real life stories of people that have fallen victim, such as how Steve lost $200,000 to an investment scam, or how Leo gave away his life savings trying to gain an inheritance.

  • You can tell them that just as you wouldn’t let a stranger into your house, it’s important not to open emails, text messages or Facebook messages, links or attachments from people or businesses that you don’t know or that seem suspicious.  Never allow a stranger to have remote access to your computer.

3. Choose the right time to talk

Finding teachable moments is key. Maybe your loved one has bought a new computer or smartphone, or maybe they have just signed up to Facebook. Any time you see their online curiosity peak, is an opportunity to talk about simple cyber security habits.

4. Come prepared

Protecting your elderly relatives online doesn’t have to be hard. But it’s important to come prepared and ready to answer any questions they might have.

A good place to start is our My Guide: Protect yourself in 8 steps! We recommend you print it out and take it along to your talk. It also includes a checklist with actions you can tick off with your loved one to keep them protected online.

Get help

Find out more about help for victims of an online scam, virus or other internet nasty.

More information and resources

  • Subscribe to our alert service for free easy-to-understand information on the latest threats and scams.
  • Follow us on Facebook for more tips on how to stay safe online.
  • Visit Be Connected for resources on how to help older Australians thrive in the digital age.