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2 months ago

Educating parents

Staying secure from digital scamming

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Ms Asia (pseudonym) was beyond herself when her daughter bought her the smartphone during last Eid vacation. She was slowly navigating the curious world of online wonders, with her new email and social media accounts. The sun was on the smile till the day she curiously opened an email with an emergency alert on the subject line.

The email claimed to be from her bank, urgently requesting updated account information. Ms Asia was more scared than confused as to what may have happened. With a click of a button, she unknowingly stepped into the web of a digital scam. The consequences were swift and severe. Her life-long savings were siphoned away by unseen cybercriminals, a very expensive payment for the absence of digital literacy.

What Ms Asia had to go through was unfortunate, surely, but not impossible. She lacked the necessary digital literacy and awareness about digital scamming. She is among many victims of the dark side of the digital age. In today's tech-driven world, Bangladesh faces a mounting concern -- the alarming surge in cyber and digital fraud. As popular belief goes that scammers target the young generation more, our parents and elderly are way more vulnerable to such frauds and risks, given their lack of knowledge regarding the issue.

The vast majority of these crimes-- because it is a small amount of money or the victims feel ashamed and don't want anyone to know--go unreported.

Our parents, the generation that went through the transitions of technology changing and adapting, need the assistance and awareness of those who know. To make cyberspace, the digital technology a safer space for them, there is some wisdom to impart from the younger generation too.

Commiserate, don't condescend: Acknowledging that scams happen across demographics, and using that as a way to talk to older loved ones, can help make the conversation productive, not condescending. This also makes them be more receptive and adaptive to the knowledge or safety measures one may be educating them about.

Use technology to your advantage: Using barriers of protection, like setting up their phonebook, adding all the close contacts or necessary contacts by names, helps them be less attentive to unknown numbers. Someone calling from any unknown number will be less feasible, and they are less likely to share information with them.

Making a script: Phone scammers rely on the innate sense of courtesy and also the element of surprise. If someone calls with an urgent message about your car warranty, or your supposed electricity or WiFi bill, it can be easy to be taken in and keep listening instead of getting off the phone. Coming up with a simple script to keep next to the phone to refer to during such calls is suggested to be very effective. Simple but authoritative statements, such as "I don't do business over phone," "I need to get this checked by my daughter or son before further discussion" - set a strong tone.

Digital transaction awareness: A large number of financial frauds happen because people give away passwords to digital wallets. They must be specifically briefed on the dos and don’ts such as never trusting any SMS that alerts to unprecedented transactions, lottery or jackpot numbers, banking accidents, or digital wallets being locked, or 'transaction by mistake' claims. They should be especially advised to never give away or text anyone the OTP (one-time passwords) or passwords to any bank accounts, debit cards, or digital wallets.

Special attention to cyber security: There are a number of crucial cyber security tips to follow for a safe digital and cyber experience.

n Not opening emails from people they don't know. If there is slightest doubt about the sender or about its legitimacy of it, do not click any link in the email.

n Spam should be cleared without opening. If need be, assistance should be offered to check emails and spam.

n Being careful with links and new websites. Malicious web addresses may appear almost identical to those of legitimate sites. Spammers often use a slight variation in spelling or logo to lure victims. Malicious links can also come from a friend's account that has already been compromised.

n Securing personal information is very necessary. Those who are using Facebook as boomers or are new to the cyber world should be cautiously taught to check if the website asking for information (date of birth, NID number, bank card number, account number, account name etc.) is secure or not.

n They should be taught to set up strong passwords and write them down in a safe notepad (manually) somewhere in case they forget. But passwords must never be written in any photo or document that is on the device itself.

n Updating their devices or software is another necessary aspect where the younger generation must assist and help them do it on their own gradually.

n Educate them about viruses, using random pen drives, or using open WiFi without any viable or known sources. Viruses like malware destroy files help them set up anti-virus.

There are a lot of other ways digital security can be compromised. But it is important to encourage your parents to stay informed about the latest scams and cybersecurity threats. Share reliable sources of information, such as government websites or reputable tech news outlets. Emphasise the importance of being proactive in staying abreast of evolving digital threats.

Foster an open and non-judgmental line of communication between you and your parents. Make them feel comfortable asking questions, seeking advice, or sharing their concerns.

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