Experience of the last 5+ years of running our Supporting Active Engagement project has taught us that one of the biggest barriers to older people In Northern Ireland to using the Internet and the benefits it has to offer, is the fear of being scammed.
While In Australia, I met with the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, the world’s only regulatory organisation dedicated to the online safety of its citizens and which is a partner in the Australian government’s Be Connected initiative, targeting those aged 55+, aiming to get every Australian online. In Northern Ireland, Scamwise NI, launched in 2016, is a partnership including the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Commissioner for Older People, Consumer Council and Age Sector Platform working together to raise awareness of scams including those that are online. Action Fraud is the UK’s National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre and its website has a news and alerts section with warnings of the latest scams and a helpline number.
While information on the latest online scams and how to protect yourself is a vital component of the process of staying safe online, it risks creating a culture of fear, particularly among older people, and as experience tells us, become a significant barrier to embracing online services that can help improve lives.
More positive anti-scam messaging, such as those used by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in Australia could help build people’s confidence and knowledge, helping them to stay safe online. Such messages could be integrated into an online banking simulator, co-designed with older people, see Recommendation 3, in order to get online safety messages across in a more positive manner.