New initiative teaches S'pore seniors how to spot and avoid online scams

A session organised by NTT and Lions Befrienders to equip the elderly with skills to identify online scams and keep their devices secure.
A session organised by NTT and Lions Befrienders to equip the elderly with skills to identify online scams and keep their devices secure.PHOTO: NTT

SINGAPORE - Seniors who receive messages online allegedly from a bank official asking them for their account details and personal data should be careful as they could be a scam.

These are scenarios trainers from global technology firm NTT are coaching seniors as part of a new programme to help them identify common ruses and stay safe online.

Through both virtual and classroom workshop sessions, depending on Covid-19 restrictions, NTT's security division and Lions Befrienders hope to reach out to 7,600 seniors by the end of 2022.

Seniors who need help navigating digital platforms can also tap volunteers from Lions Befrienders. who will be at the sessions.

The initiative is one of many programmes Lions Befrienders has organised since June last year to introduce digital technology into the lives of seniors.

Lions Befrienders chairman Anthony Tay said: "Seniors and the elderly are often targeted by scammers as they are more susceptible to trusting strangers and often lack confidence in using the Internet.

"By educating them on cyber-security practices, it can help to protect them and keep them safe in a digital world, while connecting better with the community."

A record number of 15,756 scams were reported last year, a 65 per cent increase from 2019.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the police said tech support scams, those involving the impersonation of China officials, Internet love scams, investment scams and non-banking-related phishing scams were among the top scams involving senior victims last year.

During the sessions, trainers will conduct quizzes and group activities with the seniors to help them identify common scams and red flags online.

The seniors will also learn how to best keep their digital devices safe, call the anti-scam hotline or seek advice from NTT and Lions Befrienders volunteers in case they come across a suspected scam.

After the circuit breaker last year, retired control demolition site manager Chong Chye Eng, 66, felt it was crucial to learn digital technology so that he could communicate with other people.

Mr Chong, who joined the programme in August, said: "I find it challenging to recall how to use digital technology if I do not use it regularly. Many times, I have to restart the learning process, like learning how to ride a bicycle as a child.

"I want to use it regularly with frequent practice, help and encouragement. Hopefully, we have more volunteers stepping forward to help the seniors."

To reach out to as many seniors as possible, volunteers from Lions Befrienders will share what they learn during the webinar sessions with the elderly during house visits and at senior activity centres.

NTT's security division is also aiming to provide advisory support beyond the workshops to the seniors on how to better secure their personal devices such as desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Security consultant Tan Kheng Fu, one of the volunteer trainers at NTT, joined the programme to give back to the community and contribute his knowledge of cyber security.

Mr Tan, who helped his elderly mother use digital technology, said: "Scammers often target the elderly as they tend to be more trusting, lonely and willing to listen."

"I hope seniors in the programme will at least be able to identify some common signs of scams... in order to seek assistance before losing personal information or money."