Protect yourself from online scams

by | September 6, 2018

Recognise the various scams and know what you should do.


In February this year, the Media Literacy Council (MLC) marked the world’s annual Safer Internet Day (SID) with the launch of the fifth edition of the Better Internet Campaign (BIC). A public awareness initiative which started in 2004, SID seeks to promote the safe and responsible use of digital technology by youths as well as seniors.

In line with the global theme, MLC has adopted the campaign tagline “Be Safe, Be Smart & Be Kind Online”. The campaign which is running from February 6, 2018 to December 31, 2018, focuses on current cyber wellness issues such as cyber-bullying, discernment (fact checking), and cyber safety and security.

As part of its campaign, MLC wants to protect seniors who may fall prey to online scams. Indeed, the Web is replete with stories of seniors being cheated out of their hard-earned retirement savings. So, how can seniors protect themselves:

  • Create strong passwords to minimise the risk of being hacked. Seniors are sometimes prone to selecting easy, memorable passwords in fear of forgetting their passwords. Easy passwords can make them easy targets. A good password should be at least eight characters long, and include numbers, special characters, and a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters. Seniors are advised to also change their passwords regularly.
  • Protect your personal information. Before sharing personal details such as your address, date of birth, or phone number, you should make sure that the person or organisation you are divulging the information is from a trusted website or you are dealing with someone you know and trust.
  • Be sure to first verify links before clicking. Hover the mouse over the link to check the source before clicking it. Otherwise, it could lead to a website that could infect your devices with malicious software.

Here are six common types of scams:

  • Cold call scammers normally phone unexpectedly and may sound very friendly, trying to persuade you to buy things from them. Some of them pretend to be from Government agencies, claiming you have not paid a bill or attempting to intimidate you with scare tactics.
  • A phishing scam involves receiving an e-mail that looks like it was sent be a real organisation. It may ask you to provide your personal information, complete a survey, or pay for a product or service.
  • Similarly, in a fake receipt scam you might get an e-mail invoice or receipt for a product or service you did not purchase.
  • Romance scammers usually make contact through social media or dating websites, using false identities or photos. After building up a relationship with you, they may request for small amounts of money that subsequently and very quickly grow bigger, typically for a bogus emergency.
  • Another variant of this scam is the webcam scam where the scammer asks for sexually explicit photos or videos of you which they later use as blackmail.
  • Finally, be wary when you are offered a cheap or free trial for a service. This may be a subscription scam where you find yourself unable to cancel the subscription at the end of the trial period.

When in doubt, check with a loved one or family member, or someone you trust. You can find out more in-depth information on each type of scam and how to proceed in various scenarios at You may have to block or report the scammer, or even alert the authorities. The website also includes bite-sized instructional content through videos, social media content, and tip sheets covering these issues which were produced to generate awareness, conversations, and reflections on the issues at hand.




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