By Dr. Charles K. Dodson Jr.
As the new year kicks into high gear, 18-year-old Colby Gibson reminds us of just how vital this exchange is to the civilization of society and the evolution of humankind. The Old Dominion University freshman communications major has been working with senior citizens at her Washington, D.C. church, New Hope Freewill Baptist, since the dawn of the pandemic by teaching them how to successfully navigate and use the Zoom application to attend church services.
Gibson’s efforts were later propelled by a project geared towards procuring the Girl Scout Gold Award, a highly coveted award which can provide recipients with scholarships, preferred admission status at key universities and increased military ranks, during her tenure as a scout with the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.
Gibson’s grassroots approach to increasing digital literacy among older adults, shined light on some areas of concern regarding protections against identity theft, money scams, and hacking.
Gibson, 18, diligently sought to decrease senior citizens’ susceptibility to online scams by increasing the subgroup’s awareness and ability to adequately utilize the internet, as well as employ safeguards against potentially fraudulent activity.
In 2021, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging published a report entitled: “Top 5 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors Since 2015.”
The findings revealed the most prevalent scams senior citizens faced were government impersonation scams, sweepstakes scams, illegal robocalls and unsolicited phone calls, computer tech scams and grandparent scams.
Moreover, the report cited customary, concrete tactics implemented by scammers, noting potential scammers will likely try to force you to make decisions fast under pressure, use fake caller IDs to disguise their real numbers, pretend to be a government employee from an agency like the IRS, pressure you not to consult with family or friends or urge you to hand over personal information like your Social Security number or account numbers.
Gibson’s inclination to be of service to the senior citizen populace was initiated and solidified well before she began the project.
“During COVID-19, I noticed senior citizens were unable to efficiently call doctors for appointments to get the resources needed or even log on for church services,” said Gibson. Consequently, to combat the issues associated with those realities, Gibson began to aid senior citizens at her church by teaching senior citizens how to successfully navigate and use the Zoom application to attend services.
Gibson saw a need to minimize the likelihood of senior citizens becoming victims of online scams. Gibson’s method of aiding was grassroots, intentional and relevant. She began visiting senior citizens’ homes, in addition church and visiting senior citizens’ homes, Gibson formulated, and hosted workshops featuring subject matter experts, including AARP and bank officials to increase attendees’ priviness of specific types of fraud and how to protect their money. Furthermore, Gibson created pamphlets including resources gathered from participatory organizations in the workshops to serve as a memento for attendees to refer to as needed.
We presently live in a society ruled by standards emanating from an immense results-based culture, all projects and efforts are typically measured solely by the outcomes produced thereof. Fortunately, and most importantly, the outcomes for Gibson’s targeted audience were favorable. Data collected from post-workshop surveys indicated they “learned more about scams overall, password safety and other critical information,” Gibson concluded.
When asked what lessons about herself, if any, were able to be gleaned from her involvement with the senior citizens, Gibson articulated, “I am not as shy about teaching others as I thought in the beginning. I am also comfortable speaking in front of audiences, which helps me in my studies now.”
If you are or become aware of any suspected fraud, please contact the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline immediately at 1-855-303- 9470.
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