Let’s play our part in protecting the elders from online scams

THE internet is a hugely useful tool especially during this pandemic. However, it is also a perfect place for predators to take advantage of the anonymities of a computer screen, in particular the elderly.

Often, we read in the newspapers retirees or elderly being scammed and getting cheated thousands or even millions of ringgit and losing their nest egg.

Based on statistics revealed by the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), a total of 8,489 cyber fraud cases have been recorded with losses worth RM410.68 mil between 2018 and the end of August 2019.

As for the famous Macau scam, the Selangor police received 329 reports by victims amounting to a total loss of RM16 mil between January and June in 2018.

Older folks often become the prey of scammers as they are perceived to have a huge chunk of retirement money. Moreover, the predators tend to play sentiment card as these older folks tend to look more alternatives to increase their savings.

There are many types of scams such as the pyramid schemes, umrah scams, Macau scam, contest scams, sweepstakes scam, love scams, real estate scams, healthcare scams, among others.

In May last year, a 72-year-old retired woman was cheated RM4 mil of inheritance in a phone scam. A nonagenarian became a victim of the famous Macau scam in June 2020, losing RM3.83 mil of her retirement savings.

In another case, a 73-year-old elderly woman was scammed RM61,500 by a man she had met online who was running a love scam. In December, a 71-year-old retired civil servant fell victim to a Macau scam syndicate which made him RM124,000 poorer.

We can all do our parts to protect and help our folks from falling victims of these scams. The most important thing is to create awareness by teaching these older folks to make safer and more informed decisions online although this applies to everyone in all ages as well.

According to Google, while it can be helpful to forward them online safety tips, having a meaningful conversation is often more effective. 

Google has sought the help of mental health professionals, Dr Annabel Chan and Luke Bartlett who focus on digital safety, to share tips on the most effective way to have these conversations with our elders.

Here are ways on how to get started: 

Share about your own experience

Nobody likes to feel foolish or victimised which can happen when someone is new to using the internet or unfamiliar with its conventions or unaware of the many scams, schemes, and types of misinformation they might encounter online. Be proactive in sharing your own experiences of being new to the internet, and what you have learned about staying safe online. 

Showing is better than telling

Check in with older people about their experiences with technology, and offer to walk them through apps or processes that might be unfamiliar or confusing. Allow older people to experiment online with your support and assistance.

Be a resource for them

False information that is neatly presented, or being widely repeated, is easily believed – particularly for people unfamiliar with the internet. Encourage older people to double-check what they read with someone they trust. 

Give them space and time to share their worries with you

When there’s a major incident or disaster, early news is often incomplete or confused and can cause panic for people being bombarded with alarming alerts and notifications. Encourage older internet users to wait for accurate information before deciding how to react, and let them know you’re always there to talk. 

Let them know it’s good to pause

Communicating online is different from talking in real life. People are quick to being angry and often rude, making it easy to get into arguments and long debates. If an older person in your life seems distressed about an online interaction, encourage a break, and remind them that it’s okay to simply leave a discussion if it’s not helpful.

Keep in touch and be there for them

When someone we care about takes an interest in conspiracy theories or other misinformation, it can become hard to talk with them. However, social isolation can make someone even more vulnerable and more dependent on their online relationships.

While it is impossible to prevent all the older folks in the country from falling victims to scams moving forward, we can do our part by having a meaningful conversation with the elders on their online safety and create awareness among them.

If we, the younger generation, play our part well, we can help to protect the nest egg of our elders. – Feb 17, 2021


Photo credit: Getty Images

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