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Helping Seniors Safeguard Cyber Accounts


As online reverse mortgage advertising has blossomed and seniors simultaneously have become more technologically savvy, it’s important that they recognize how to protect themselves online. While some older adults shy away from the computer in the mistaken belief that even an email address enables a hacker to infiltrate their accounts, others are too trusting or uninformed about how to safely handle sensitive transactions over the Internet.

In addition, with the protracted economic crisis hackers have become more creative — and determined. The growing volume of electronic funds transfer has made this channel especially attractive to online thieves.

How can you help your reverse mortgage clients to enter or remain active in the digital landscape while safeguarding their assets? Here are six practical tips to protect bank accounts from digital plunder:

1. Pick a financial institution with state-of-the-art fraud prevention. Encourage your senior prospects to ask their financial institutions about online asset protection. A bank’s online account platform is only as secure as the technology behind it.
2. Look for the security symbols. Be sure your clients understand that a secure site will open with https rather than http, and that this “s” signifies a secure server. They (and you!) should never conduct any transaction involving funds, passwords, and similar privileged information unless the site can demonstrate that it is secure.
3. Secure the network. By the same token, it’s far better to conduct cyber banking transactions on a secure network, such as a home Internet account that is password-protected, than on an “open network” at a café, for example. Even if they log onto a secure site, an open network is less safe than a private one.
4. Divide and conquer. Recommend that your reverse mortgage clients keep their online banking activity separate from all other Internet business, and log out each time a transaction is complete. This strengthens their anti-fraud fortress.
5. Sign up for transaction alerts. Their bank will notify a senior of any unusual activity if they register for such alerts. Additionally, a “debit block” will prevent any transactions from going through except those that are preauthorized.
6. Upgrade firewalls and malware protection software. If they’ve never heard these terms, explain what they are — or recommend they get in touch with their ISP’s technical support team. Staying current with updates is also key to preventing a security breach.

By maintaining up-to-date online security and keeping an informed eye on their online banking activity, your reverse mortgage clients will enjoy conducting business online, and make it easier for you to serve them by providing another valuable communication avenue beyond in-person meetings and snail mail.


Leave a Comment


  1. Ms. Rose,

    Without question this information can be effectively used by the vast majority of HECM originators. Still there are a number of us who should not enter into such discussions over concern of legal liability.

    But here are a few pointers that go beyond the great suggestions you make. Picking the financial institution which provides the recommended security may just be the easiest part of that pointer. The bigger job is making sure the financial institution is dedicated to and is actually maintaining that status.

    There are also groups which test for adequate security and provide their seal of approval. Sometimes that seal is decoration but other times it is a great indicator of a secure system. But one cannot rely on just any seal so some research may be needed.

    But overall, this was a very good article.

  2. Hello James ~

    Excellent point. Yes, security that is mere window dressing does little to help the customer. How would you ensure that a financial institution actually maintains its secure status, other than looking for the security symbols mentioned?

    Thanks for adding value to these posts. And a positive, prosperous 2013 to you ~


  3. Ms. Rose,

    When transactions are of any significant size at all (off line or online), online security becomes a very significant concern. As the old saying goes: “What you did yesterday really just does not count for much. What are you doing for me TODAY?”

    For the online savvy, find out what information about security is posted and what can be obtained by snail mail such as reports on internal controls on online systems, security, and other aspects of the online system from both external (preferred) and internal examiners. Ask to be put on any online or off line mailings and updates. Monthly or weekly do online searches for any buzz online about the security of the provider.

    Finally, if nothing, search on the website of the provider on a regular basis (at least monthly) to see if there are any changes. Also watch for management changes or any apparent changes in the diligence of management in maintaining strong online controls and security.

  4. This is great information, James. I hope all reverse mortgage professionals who read these posts recommend that their web savvy clients follow your suggested protocols in order to protect their assets to the best of their ability.

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