Protecting your parents’ digital legacy—and your own
The tech-savvy are increasingly falling prey to online fraud, and the danger is greater for older adults. Here’s how to keep your family secure.
Financial fraud is on the rise. Losses due to fraud reported in 2020 totaled over $1.5 billion, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as fraudsters grew in sophistication and their targets failed to keep pace.
Worse still, older individuals continue to be increasingly targeted and the median amount of loss accelerates with age.1;The FTC has found older adults are much more likely than younger consumers to fall victim to a variety of criminal fraud scams (including phony tech support, and family and friend impersonations).2;The regulator received over 150,000 complaints in 2020 from people aged 70 and older (up 590% within the last five years), which is likely an undercount. Our Fraud teams are also seeing a worrisome rise in elder financial exploitation and evidence that even more is going unreported. Embarrassment may help explain why many seniors don’t tell their banks when they’ve been defrauded.
We recommend shifting from fraud shame to fraud prevention.
So how can your loved ones’ (and your own) digital assets be protected, now and in the future? The period after death is, unfortunately, an especially dangerous time for financial fraud. The prevention toolkit doesn’t begin and end with finances. It encompasses anything requiring a log-in and password—phone, email, reward miles and points, social media, subscriptions and more. A person’s entire digital footprint may be used against them.
Our Fraud Prevention experts and Trusts and Estates teams teamed up to give you the best advice for helping secure your loved ones’ (and your own) digital assets, now and in an estate and succession plan:
1. Have the conversation: Normalize fraud awareness
All potential victims—that is, everyone—should understand the risks of fraud and its potentially huge financial impact. Discussing finances with loved ones may be difficult, delicate (even taboo)—or perhaps perceived as an attempt to wrest away financial control. However, if you believe a loved one may need some assistance, framing the conversation around preventing fraud may make it easier.
Some questions you may want to ask your parents (and yourself) include:
- Are activity alerts enabled on bank accounts to send notifications to a phone and/or email of potentially fraudulent transactions or suspicious changes?
- Are online privacy settings strong? Are their profiles private? Have they enabled multi-factor authentication, for example? All passwords should be complex, differ and be changed regularly.
- How vulnerable are they to scams—for example, do they understand social engineering (see below)?
- Who needs to know their entire financial portfolio and every financial institution that houses their assets? Are multiple accounts (including inactive ones) being reviewed and monitored regularly for unauthorized activity? If no one knows the full picture, what does it mean for their legacy and descendants?
- If needed, has a power of attorney been set up and granted to someone who has your loved ones' best interests in mind?
As you discuss many things as a family—including tough subjects—talk about online fraud prevention too, and become allies. Set up a system that works quickly, since time elapsed is a risk in financial fraud. The sooner we know, the faster we can help. A speedy response moves beyond blame to a solution that safeguards your parents’ assets.
2. Understand social engineering
A very common fraud scheme, social engineering, targets a person's trust, deceiving them into divulging confidential information, by phone, online or text message. Personal details used to mount these attacks may be gleaned from social media posts, if they’re public.
Beware of communications with a tone of urgency or panic, and poor grammar and suspicious web links. Your elders should know to refuse any request made by phone, or while online (say, from a popup message) to remotely control the machine.
Wariness is power—prevention means don’t answer the phone call, click the link or open the attachment.
3. Reach out to your banking team to create an anti-fraud protection plan
Your family’s banking team members can help with creating a fraud prevention plan. Our fraud experts can be called upon as well, for a deeper dive. Expect to discuss the possibility of adding someone to your parents’ alerts so that if they don’t catch unusual activity, someone else will.
Having a backup is especially crucial if they’ve been defrauded before—that makes the chances it will happen again exponentially higher. Your team may discuss the best practice of delegating responsibilities among a few people, so no single individual can take advantage of their position of trust. Your fraud prevention plan will also cover introducing trusted contact(s) to your financial team and delegating duties.
4. Remember the importance of digital legacy
As important as it is to prevent online fraud today, it’s equally important not to forget your parents’ (and your own) digital legacy after death—when it’s potentially most vulnerable. With enough information, a fraudster can back-engineer their way to withdrawing money and using credit cards. Yet when it occurs, families often don’t know what to do.
Think of digital legacy as integral to your family’s wealth and estate planning. Every online asset should be accounted for, and its location known to someone. That’s where an inventory comes in. Once inventoried, your family’s Wealth Advisor or a Trusts and Estates team can help with considering how to include the digital legacy in an estate plan. They may ask:
- Are digital assets identified in an estate plan? Should they be held somewhere for distribution?
- Does at least one trusted contact person know how to access them and what should be done with them or how they should be passed down?
- Have digital assets’ value been assessed and are they integrated into a succession plan? If not, heirs may incur inconvenience and costs to gain access, or even fail to.
- Are all accounts outside of J.P. Morgan that are in the estate plan and will, secure?
We can help.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or your login credentials have been compromised, please contact your J.P. Morgan team immediately.
Contact your J.P. Morgan team to learn more about our fraud awareness programs, and to schedule a session with our Fraud Prevention and Trusts and Estates teams to help secure your family’s digital legacy.
- Stay on top of the latest in fraud protection by visiting our Cybersecurity and Fraud Prevention Hub
- See how elders have been targeted and how to foil fraudsters.
This article is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be relied upon, to address every aspect of the subject discussed herein. The information provided in this article is intended to help clients protect themselves from cyber fraud. It does not provide a comprehensive listing of all types of cyber fraud activities and it does not identify all types of cybersecurity best practices. You, your company or organization is responsible for determining how to best protect itself against cyber fraud activities and for selecting the cybersecurity best practices that are most appropriate to your needs. Any reproduction, retransmission, dissemination or other unauthorized use of this article or the information contained herein by any person or entity is strictly prohibited.