Elderly targetted in online scams

Older Australians are struggling to stay safe online, with email deception and a lack of password protection proving to be big problems, writes Madeleine Neale.

Older Australians are struggling to stay safe online, with email deception and a lack of password protection proving to be big problems, according to a spokesman for the Council of the Ageing.

To help those grappling with social media and internet scams, COTA has launched a Seniors Cyber-Crime program to teach older Australians how to use technology safely

The program, which began in Western Australia two months ago, will expand into other states and territories this year.

The Seniors Cyber-Crime program offers information sessions run by ACS Fellow David Cook, a researcher at Edith Cowan University’s Security Research Institute, which provides information on email deception, password protection, Wi-Fi security, and financial, social, and legal vulnerabilities.

A 2013 report conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found the number of people 65 years and over reporting they had been duped by scams has nearly doubled to 18 per cent since 2012. These included online and phone scams, as well as fake charities door-knocking homes.

Brendan O’Dwyer, a spokesman from COTA, said e-newsletters were sent out every fortnight to give the elderly details on the latest scams. “Usually these scams are the ones over the phone, they’re the ones that are most prevalent.”

Fear of being scammed means some older people are reluctant to try new technologies.

Kay Joakim, 87, came to Australia from Greece more than 60 years ago and has trouble staying in contact with her younger relatives because of her fear of being online.

“I want to learn but I hear stories on the radio about people getting tricked on the computer,” Kay said. “I miss out on a lot of things like photos of my nieces and cousins and other important information about where I grew up because of this barrier.”

Joakim is not the only senior missing out. In 2013 the Australian Bureau of Statistics found 56 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over still were not using the internet.

To help change this statistic, Broadband for Seniors has set up more than 1500 kiosks around Australia in local organisations, with over 5,000 volunteer tutors available for people aged 50 and over.

The government-run program, established in 2008, aims to teach older Australians how to use the computer and the internet in a safe manner so that they can keep in touch with family and friends, and utilise online services provided by businesses and governments.

Each kiosk is equipped with instructions and tutorials that cover word processing, web browsing and sending emails. Additional training can then be organised with tutors.

Meghan, a customer service operator from Broadband for Seniors, said: “A lot of them feel lonely and are finding that this fast-paced world is moving away from them.

“Some days I have 90-year-olds calling me up saying, ‘I think it’s about time I got on a computer’.”

The Broadband for Seniors program emphasizes the importance of being safe online by promoting the Little Black Book of Scams, published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The book, which highlights popular scams that target Australians, is available in a PDF format at every kiosk.

“There is a lot of fear around it (technology), that’s why we are constantly talking to the seniors about how to overcome it and embrace these advances while they can,” says Meghan.

To locate your local Broadband for Seniors kiosk visit http://bfseniors.com.au/