Empowering our online communities.
Cyber security and online safety are increasingly critical issues for older adults, especially as Internet use grows among them who wish to take advantage of the benefits of online services and resources. As older adults continue to reap the diverse benefits and conveniences of the Internet, they also become vulnerable to elder abuse through online fraud schemes.
In response to the pervasiveness of cyber crime and often devastating financial impacts on the aging population, the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) launched The Piers Project in 2016. The project was funded by a generous gift from the estate of former Carlsbad By The Sea resident Ellie Piers to benefit the FPCIW’s ongoing mission of using technology to enhance wellbeing among older adults. An avid internet user, Ms. Piers realized that it was important for older adults to become aware of cyber security threats online and to understand how to equip oneself with preventative measures that can protect against cyber crime.
The increasing internet adoption rate among older adults taking advantage of a connected world is good news. While they still fall behind the general population, 67% of people 65 and over were online compared to 90% of all adults. However, the growing online community of older users also means that there is greater potential for cyber-related crimes, fraud, and disinformation:
- Only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse are ever reported.
- In 2017, older adults lost $1.7 billion to financial abuse.
- 45% of financial abuse begins through the use of the Internet.
- 59% of people say they are unsure whether what they see in the media is true.
The Piers Project set out on a campaign to help educate Front Porch residents and other older adults of the importance and value of participating in a digitally-connected world, but to also practice safe online behavior. FPCIW has partnered with and leveraged the resources of several cyber safety leaders such as OASIS of San Diego, Serving Seniors, the Elder Abuse Alliance, AARP, the San Diego Futures Foundation, and the Federal Trade Commission. In 2016, the Piers Project reached 350 workshop participants and distributed over 3,600 cybersecurity toolkits with high impact. Of the 264 older adults attending our workshops,
- 74% strongly felt more aware of the key warning signs of online fraud;
- 71% strongly agreed that they were more knowledgeable of preventative behaviors against online fraud;
- 63% strongly agreed that they were aware of where to locate helpful resources that target specific types of fraud; and
- 89% agreed that they had greater confidence in using the Internet.
In 2019, the FPCIW team continued this effort in cyber security awareness with an update of the Piers Cyber Security Toolkit content, which covers common Internet-based fraud schemes, various forms of identity theft, social media fraud, and malware protection. The refreshed edition includes new topics on voice first devices such as the Amazon Alexa, and how to spot “fake news”.
With additional support from California Lutheran Homes, the Piers Cyber Security Toolkit and workshop presentation was translated into Spanish, Korean, and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional). FPCIW has to-date conducted cybersafety workshops at 10 Front Porch communities to 210 older adults, and distributed over 1,700 toolkits with plans to present additional workshops at CARING Housing Ministries communities. (These toolkits and workshop presentations are available for free download at the links below.)
In recognition of National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October 2016, FPCIW hosted a live Twitter chat (#SrCyberchat) with Internet safety experts, senior service providers, and technology companies that actively addressed the online financial and privacy security of older adult users. Plans are currently underway for another Twitter event on Oct 24 at 11 AM PST, featuring representatives from AARP, the Federal Trade Commission, and Oasis as expert panelists.
The Piers Project campaign promotes clear and concise cyber security education that includes awareness of key warning signs of online fraud, preventative behaviors, reporting fraudulent activity, and a greater level of confidence in using the Internet.
Piers Project Downloads
For the full and free printable booklet versions of the toolkits and workshop presentations, please contact KBULLEMAN@frontporch.net