Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

I was round at my mother’s house to remove the banking app from her phone, which I had only installed four days before, so, while it would be putting it strongly to say I was opposed to deleting it, I was definitely after a bit of clarification as to why. I tried to express this in the gentlest and most patient way possible, by shouting, “What’s the point, though? What’s wrong with having some basic banking capability in your house, considering you never leave it?”

“What if someone steals my phone?”

“So they’ve stolen your phone.”

“Then they can drain my bank account.”

“Not without your pin. Nobody knows it except you.” (This is not exactly true: nobody knows it except me, and I have four more times I can repeat it before it vanishes out of my head).

“But my phone knows, otherwise what would be 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 imperiously: “This is why it’s so unpleasant to be taught anything at my age; everyone takes this tone.” This 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.

Sure, we can blame failing eyesight – I have my own complaints to make about that – but I think it’s the tide of irrelevant nonsense, combined with the ever-present spectre of fraud, that defeats the over-80s. There are so many passwords and verifications that don’t matter – a dense thicket of security to go through just to get into Google Docs, or to fill in a form to verify a minicab account. You could forget them after it happened with no meaningful damage to your online security, except that if you can distinctly remember inputting card details, and you read somewhere once that clever thieves can steal those from anywhere, you have just destroyed your fragile peace.

There’s a special place in hell for fraudsters that go after old-timers, but if I said that to a fraudster, they would probably say: “You know who might not end up in heaven? People who can’t keep a civil tongue in their head while they are deleting a banking app.”

Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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