Think older Americans aren’t online? Think again. The pandemic showed how the internet can be a lifeline for older adults. Unfortunately, while connecting online may help stave off loneliness, it also presents an irresistible opportunity for scammers. An earlier generation’s flimflammers have moved to cyberspace. According to the FBI, adults over 60 reported losing $1.7 billion to fraud in 2021, a 74-percent increase over 2020. And much of this is taking place online.
NPT’s Aging Matters: Exposing Cyber Threats premieres Monday, Dec. 12, at 8 p.m. and will also be available to watch on the PBS Video App. Part of NPT’s long-running and Emmy-winning series, the 30-minute documentary discusses various types of internet and financial fraud, including romance and other confidence fraud, as well as phishing scams. Tips on spotting potential scams and staying safe online are discussed in the show.
The documentary spotlights programs by AgeWell Middle Tennessee, FiftyForward and Nashville Public Library that help older adults learn to safely navigate the web so they can continue to reap the benefits of maintaining an active online presence.
“For older adults, the greatest need is access and opportunity – and confidence,” says Marian Christmon, manager of Nashville Public Library’s Digital Inclusion Initiatives, in the documentary.
“Older adults are often tempting targets for a couple of reasons,” says Doug Schmidt, a Vanderbilt University computer science professor, in the documentary. “They’re the ones who are the most vulnerable. They’re the ones who are very grateful that someone’s willing to take the time to help them.”
As discussed in the documentary, romance scams have been the most financially destructive in recent years. People 70 and older had the biggest median losses in this area, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Another category of scam of particular concern to the older cohort is the grandparent scam, wherein a caller or correspondent claims to be a grandchild asking for help in a moment of crisis.
Additional air times for Aging Matters: Exposing Cyber Threats on NPT are Sunday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 19, at 11:30 p.m. Air times on NPT2 are Saturday, Dec. 17, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 1 p.m.
Aging Matters: Exposing Cyber Threats was produced by NPT’s Shawn Anfinson and narrated by Denice Hicks of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. The documentary was made possible by a grant from the West End Home Foundation to help bridge the digital divide for Middle Tennesseans aged 60 and older. NPT was one of 30 nonprofit and governmental agencies to receive a grant ranging from $10,000 to $400,000. In addition to this documentary, NPT’s grant will fund a series of workshops about digital literacy and online safety, as well as short videos on related topics.
The digital literacy initiative, administered by the West End Home Foundation, is the last phase of the $40 million settlement handed down from Davidson County Chancery Court, Division III, Case No. 11-1548-III. Funds from this case were designated by the Court to be used to sustain and improve the quality of life for elderly Tennesseans.
Funding Background: In 2014, the Tennessee Attorney General recovered $40.1 million from the dissolution of two nonprofit nursing homes in Murfreesboro. The funds were under the auspices of the Chancery Court of Davidson County, with Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle presiding. The West End Home Foundation was the recipient of $3.9 million in funds for the purpose of designing and administering a statewide grant aimed at bridging the digital divide that was apparent for older adults during the pandemic. The grant, “Reducing Social Isolation and Increasing Access to Essential Services Through Digital Literacy and Inclusion for Older Tennesseans,” was launched Jan. 10, 2022. Click here for information on these funds.