Senior Filipinos at risk: the rise of cyber crimes targeting the elderly

#ScamWatchPH steps up to shield the vulnerable against tech frauds.

BY

At a glance


    In this age of instant and accessible digital connectivity, Senior Filipinos have become some of the most vulnerable to the sinister activities of cyber criminals. This has been the observation of Art Samaniego, Jr., TechNews Editor and IT Head of the Manila Bulletin. 

    During the height of the COVID pandemic years of mandatory isolation in their homes, people relied heavily on online communication and services. Seniors were many of those who were exposed to so many diverse online messages, which scammers took advantage of. Because they tend to be more sympathetic to the plight of others, seniors can easily fall for the insidious sob stories of scammers. Likewise, with many of them not being tech savvy, their mobile and social media accounts are prone to the attacks of hackers.

    Concerned with this alarming and relentless trend, Manila Bulletin stepped up to the plate by launching Scam Watch Pilipinas or #ScamWatchPH, which aims to empower Filipinos “to protect themselves against cyber fraud and online scams. The movement is a project of MB Technews, with the goal of transforming the section into a technology advocacy channel.” Samaniego and Jocel de Guzman, founder and president of startup Truth360, lead the movement as co-lead convenors.

    In line with #ScamWatchPH’s educational and awareness campaigns, Samaniego recently conducted an online Zoom session for the Seniors group of Jesus is Alive Community, D. Tuazon, Quezon City Homebase. In that session, he shared best practices in cyber security (how to secure mobile and online accounts), gave practical advice for identifying and avoiding scams (when a message is too good to be true, it is probably a scam. Or a text that says you won millions of pesos in a contest you did not join, that is a scam.), strongly urged skepticism towards unsolicited messages (do not reply to calls or messages from unidentified sources), verification of website authenticity (fake bank websites saying that there is a problem with your account and that you have to verify and update your details immediately. Banks will never ask for such verification. They already have that data, to begin with. Best to contact your bank itself to confirm.), and protection of personal information online (cloned accounts of friends asking for your contact info, supposedly to include in their own directories).

    In an imperfect world, however, hackers and scammers will persist with their despicable deeds. And if these cybercriminals are still able to penetrate digital defenses, report the numbers or other relevant info to #ScamWatchPH hotline 1326, which can give instructions for how to proceed and elevate the concern to the proper agencies.

    The DICT, NTC, NPC, and CICC established the Inter-Agency Response Center (I-ARC) and formed the Account Recovery Team (ART) to address the concerns of the netizens on cybersecurity, data privacy, cybercrime, and ICT Consumer Protection. Save these numbers in case of need: I-ARC Hotlines: 1326; 09914814225 for DITO; 09477147105 for Smart; and 09669765971 for Globe. (Malou Rosal)