Connectivity helps Queensland Seniors Week go virtual

8-minute read
Queensland Seniors Week has been going strong for 60 years and, thanks to help from connectivity, not even the COVID-19 pandemic can slow it down in 2020.

It’s now a ‘senior’ itself… this week marks the milestone 60th anniversary of Queensland Seniors Week.

And, this year, the initiative that provides opportunities to foster a positive community attitude towards older people and ageing is trying something new: its first ‘virtual’ celebration.

Going online for Queensland Seniors Week

While things look a little different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Queensland Seniors Week’s new online format also presents new possibilities.

From Saturday 15 August to Sunday 23 August, the Queensland Seniors Week schedule is packed with virtual activities that range from practical to fun, including short films, online health checks, puzzle parties, and online tours of iconic spaces.

And, coincidentally, Queensland Seniors Week is this year sharing the spotlight with another important ‘week’ on the calendar: Scams Awareness Week.

Seniors and scams

It’s a somewhat serendipitous meeting of the themed weeks.

In 2019, Australians lost more than $900,000 from nbn impersonation scams, says Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

And the highest number of reports and losses? They came from people aged 65 years and older.

Already this year, more than 2,300 nbn-themed scams have been reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch with losses of $320,624.

While these figures may sound scary, older Australians shouldn’t let it deter them from exploring the benefits connectivity can bring.

Rather, it’s about learning how to identify potential scams and scammers to keep you, your finances and personal information safe online. 

Helping bridge the gap between Queensland Seniors Week and Scams Awareness Week is one of Mackay’s savvy seniors, retired engineer Jim Paton.

Jim enjoys the online efficiency of contacting family overseas and keeping on top of UK soccer scores.

“My advice to anyone who is not online yet would be to try it and find out the vast amount of information available. But be very careful of what and who you give any information to, and be very wary of scams.”

Scams and nbn

Scammers are an unfortunate reality of contemporary life, whether offline (via phone, postal mail, or in-person) or online.

When it comes to nbn and scams, says Melissa Mallet, nbn™ local Manager for North Queensland, it’s important to remember that nbn is a wholesaler.

“We don’t sell services directly to the public – that’s the job of your phone and internet provider. So, you can be sure we’ll never call asking for your financial information, and we’ll never call and ask for remote access to your computer or threaten to disconnect your service.”

Jim Paton.

Regardless of who we are, and how old, we’re all potential victims of scammers. That’s why we need to work together to stay informed and vigilant.

“We need everyone to help us spread the word though, so please tell your family, your grandparents and your neighbours; we’re all in this together,” says Melissa.

Watch out for scams including...

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VIP wisdom

And when it comes to spreading the word in Mackay, and helping other seniors to gain confidence online, there’s the VIPs: Volunteers in Policing.

Jim Paton is one of these VIPs, and he’s flanked by other internet-savvy seniors.

Gerri Kissner spent a lot of her career in the finance industry online, so she’s skilled and confident using the internet in retirement – so much so that she’s teaching other retirees in the Neighbourhood Watch ‘Get Connected’ program.

On getting online, Gerri’s advice is simple.

“Don’t hesitate, just get online. You can’t break a mobile phone or device by trying to use it.

“The more you use the internet, the more confident you will grow. It is simply the way the world is going; you may as well get on there and learn a few new things.”

Older female wearing lanyard using tablet device on a balcony with trees in background
Gerri Kissner.

This sentiment is shared by fellow VIP John Blackwell, who enjoys the “massive amount of general knowledge” available online.

“Have a go and don’t be frightened.”

John Blackwell.

Then there’s Gillian Phillips, a retired admin officer from a local school.

While still feeling like she’s on ‘L plates’ when it comes to modern devices, Gillian uses the internet to stay in touch with loved ones and to keep up to date with the goings-on of local and world news.

“I would advise taking ‘baby steps’ at first to become comfortable with navigating the internet, and persevere as you are able to build on your skills. The more familiar you become with the system, the easier it gets.”

Older female wearing Volunteer in Policing polo shirt sitting in front of computer holding mug that says The Boss
Gillian Phillips.

Police advice on scams

Just like we’ve joined forces with Scamwatch this week to raise awareness of the evolving nature of scams, our ongoing work with Queensland Police is another way we’re helping to educate those young and old on staying safe online.

“It’s really important for us to keep getting the message out about scams, and it’s a really powerful partnership we’ve grown with the Queensland Police in regional areas to work together to protect Queenslanders,” says Melissa.

“Of course, scammers claiming to work for nbn aren’t the only scams doing the rounds, but we want to do our bit, alongside the police, who hear and see them all.”

Unfortunately, senior citizens are prized prey for scammers according to Senior Constable Steve Smith of Mackay Police in Queensland.

“There is too much to lose by refusing to take steps to protect yourself online. Police have seen countless examples of residents in our district losing significant sums of money. In some instances, an entire lifetime’s savings have been lost.

“As bad as that sounds, losing control of your identifying information can be much worse. Scammers view our senior citizens as ideal targets because they normally have access to considerable superannuation funds. Many senior citizens are unfamiliar with the risks associated with internet use; this can mean they are being viewed by scammers as easier targets who are worth pursuing.”

Senior Constable Steve Smith.

And that’s why spreading awareness and learning to spot the tell-tale signs of scammers is so critical.

“We are seeking to make life harder, if not impossible, for scammers to benefit from our residents,” says Senior Constable Smith.

“To do that we have to improve everyone’s awareness on how scammers achieve their goals, as well as provide good advice on how to protect yourself from their activity.”

“We are seeking to make life harder, if not impossible, for scammers to benefit from our residents,” says Senior Constable Smith.

And it takes a village, according to Senior Constable Smith.

“We are less effective when we try to do this by ourselves, meaning the Queensland Police Service alone, but we have great like-minded friends in non-police organisations whose goals are the same as ours.

“For example, we have worked together with Melissa Mallet from nbn in providing exactly this type of useful information to our seniors in the Mackay district, who we know are being targeted by scammers via phone and in the online world.

“When we hear the nightmare stories of our residents falling hard to scammers – losing money, identifying information and hearing the impacts of this on their family, working life, finances and spouses – it’s the worst feeling.”

On the flip side, says Senior Constable Smith, there have been many stories from residents who have used the information provided by the police and nbn to avoid becoming the next victim.

“They recognised a bad situation and did exactly the right things to avoid the worst possible outcome. That’s the best feeling. It’s why police and nbn work so hard together in the area of prevention.”

Virtual realities

nbn’s own Melissa shares the sentiment that there’s no better time to get to online than now.

“Jim, Gillian, Gerri and John are VIPs in our eyes, too. Fearless and famous, they’ve jumped online and embraced it, and we love their ‘have a go’ attitude.

“I can vouch for Gerri’s advice myself: if even I’ve managed not to break it, you’ll be fine!”

With connectivity becoming even more important in light of recent times, supporting older Australians to get connected and comfortable online continues to be a priority, says Melissa.

“We want to make sure we don’t leave any of our wonderful seniors behind when it comes to getting online. We know it can open up a world of things but, most importantly, right now it’s the only way many can stay in touch and see family from a distance during these tricky times.”

And, just like Queensland Seniors Week, nbn had to bring connecting with the community online.

“The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we could connect with communities, so we’ve turned things ‘virtual’ too.

“While we look forward to connecting face-to-face again soon, our new 15-minute sessions with an nbn representative are a great way to get those nbn™-related questions answered now and troubleshoot any issues you may be having.

“All you need to do is tell us when and how you’d like us to get in touch.”

To book a 15-minute one-on-one chat or ‘nbn 101’ group presentation, please email nbnsessions@nbn.com.au