My mom is having trouble getting online – it’s not about the technology, it’s about the risk of fraud and scams | Zoe Williams

i visited my mother’s house to remove the banking app from her phone that I had only installed four days earlier, so while it would be harsh to say that I was against deleting it, I was definitely looking forward to some clarification. how why I tried to express it in the most gentle and patient way possible, shouting, “But what’s the point?” What’s wrong with having some basic banking options at home, given that you never leave them?

“What if someone steals my phone?”

“So they stole your phone.”

“Then they can empty my bank account.”

“Not without your pin. No one knows but you. (This is not entirely true: no one knows except iand I can repeat it four more times before it disappears from my mind).

“But my phone knows, otherwise what’s the point of having a pin?”

“Your phone can’t tell a thief your pin!” That’s not how phones work.”

She took a deep breath and said firmly, “That’s why it’s so unpleasant to be taught something at my age; everyone takes this tone.” It would have been even more justified if she had been able to see my many gestures and facial expressions, but luckily I was standing behind her.

Of course we can blame it on failing eyesight – I have my share of complaints about that – but I think the over 80s are being overcome by a tide of trivial nonsense along with the ever-present specter of fraud. There are so many passwords and verifications that don’t matter, a dense security thicket that you have to wade through just to get into Google Docs or fill out a form to verify your minicab account. After that, you can forget about them without harming your Internet security, except that if you clearly remember entering the card data and once read that clever thieves can steal them from anywhere, you have just destroyed your fragile peace of mind.

There’s a special place in hell for crooks who follow the old-timers, but if I told a crook that, they’d probably say, “You know who might not make it to heaven?” People who can’t keep civil language in their heads while they swipe the banking app.”

Zoe Williams is a columnist for the Guardian

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