This Month, Resolve to Help All Senior Citizens Become Digitally Savvy

Hello! Hello! Hello! Is that you Beta? Speak up dear… I can’t hear very well.”(That’s my Aunt Lata on the phone, loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear.)

Yes, yes, Aunty. I can hear you very well. How are you?”

“I am a bit worried dear. Your Uncle received this mail saying his e-mail ID is the lucky winner of INR 10 lacs (1 million). To claim the prize, he had to send his name, telephone number and bank details at the earliest.”

“Oh dear! This is a scam. Hope he didn’t reply to that mail!”

“Yes he did. Now they are saying they want his netbanking details to transfer the amount. But before that, he has to pay a fee of INR 5000 to cover sundry expenses. He is now so excited about his win that he refuses to believe it could be a scam. Especially since the mail says it is from a reputed firm.”

Such stories are becoming part of every family’s stock tale, given the sharp rise in the number of senior people going online these days.

Just consider this mail I received a few days back: (image below)

cybermum blog

It is clearly a scam mail. Here’s why:

  1. Numbers have been used instead of a name to label the user
  2. The mail body copy is generic as it doesn’t address me by name. Not much left to decipher at this point. Clearly, the scamster is waiting for someone to respond
  3. And there is no signature at the end of the mail

What if such a mail was received by a gullible person who is unaware of the modus operandi of the online crooks?

I do not want to sound like a wet blanket, but there are all kinds of scamsters online, as are there in the real world. And senior citizens are easy targets because they are digital immigrants.

So if there are senior citizens in your family and neighbourhood, do spare some time to educate them about online scams, spams and phishing attacks. In my previous blog, I wrote about helping moms to become net-savvy. Now, extend your hand to help senior citizens as well!

Some basic online safety guidelines for seniors:

  • Distrust e-mails from strangers: If you receive mails soliciting friendship, business, monetary help etc., ignore Better still, mark them as Spam to stop such senders from bothering you in the future. Just because you receive a message from an authentic looking e-mail ID, it should not be assumed to be genuine. Don’t reply, even in jest. Remember the mantra I use to operate safely online – STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
  • Beware of Scareware: Be extra suspicious of calls that claim to be from your bank, security software provider or email service providers that confidently assure you of fixing bugs in your system. Just so you know – these fixes are done automatically when you connect your device to the net if you have updated antivirus solutions.
  • Nigerian Scam: Thanks to the widespread discussion on this tactic, most people are quite aware that money claiming to be kept aside in your name at some Nigerian bank is nothing but a hoax. STOP. Don’t click on any such links.
  • You have won a lottery: Fraudsters try to catch their prey by using the names and IDs that look similar to those of reputed firms. Just STOP – Why should Facebook or Google or any firm for that matter, want to offer you millions for free? Remember, “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” especially on the internet.
  • You are the millionth winner; click here NOW: Never fall for this trick. It mostly results in a malware/ virus attack that infects your computer and slows it down drastically. THINK about why would you be the ‘millionth winner; if you didn’t participate in any contest in the first place?
  • Call from bank, security service provider: Do not SHARE personal details like date of birth, address, PAN card number, login ID, passwords with anyone telephonically. It is not easy to establish the authenticity of the caller, and even if a person visits you at home calling himself the representative of a bank, remember to ask for his ID before disclosing information.

My request to all readers: Teach senior citizens the know-hows of how to safely use a computer, tablet or smartphone. You will not only be doing them a great service, but also to yourself in becoming a responsible netizen.  Join hands with your siblings, cousins, and friends to teach as many people as you can. This will make them more cautious, careful and responsible while surfing the internet.

Stay safe online, stay happy!


Mother’s Day Role Reversal for Young Techies

Teach Your Mom to be a Sure & Safe Netizen

Remember those times, when you frowned and squinted, tongue held between your teeth, as your mom guided your little hand over the cursive letters? Remember how she patiently spent hours teaching you the alphabets and numbers?

This Mother’s Day, acknowledge her extraordinary contribution in creating a literate you by helping her become digitally literate. Chances are, your mom has a basic digital presence with email, Facebook and a few online shopping sites. She is most likely also using a smartphone with a touchscreen.

Over time, though she has become somewhat adept at using these, she is still far from being a power user. Which means, she:

a) May NOT be fully aware of the risks associated with having a digital presence

b) WON’T be able to tell a phishing mail apart from a genuine one

c) May be unaware that she SHOULD NOT click on a pop-up ad

She is often bewildered when you throw around terms like ‘apps’, ‘malware’, ‘netbanking’ and ‘e-tailing’. Scams to her would be real-life defrauding or swindling.  She is nevertheless excited to explore video calling or the voice-dialing feature she has suddenly chanced upon. She’s also probably tried asking you to explain how to buy gifts online, start video chats, download YouTube videos or do net banking.

Mother’s Day offers the right opportunity for a role reversal. Along with flowers, gifts, cards and outings, pledge to spend some time with her on a regular basis to help her become not just net-savvy but responsibly net-savvy.  This will ensure her safety online – a space whose dangers she probably doesn’t know of.

Who else to better guide her than you, her tech-savvy child?

Start at the very beginning-with safety

Tips to be cyber safe while communicating through emails and social media

  • First things first, teach her to password protect her device. Show her how. Get her to follow the steps a few times till she gets the hang of it.
  • Then come the search engines that she will commonly use. Download a safe search engine and pin the icon to the bottom tool bar on a computer or on the home screen of her mobile device
  • Download and install Facebook, Skype and a mail service. Take time to teach her how to log in, use the service and the importance of logging out from all sites
  • Next, help her with her e-mail account. Explain the importance of having a complex password. Write it down in her diary, for she may forget it once in a while. Safety tip to share with her is that she does not respond to mails from strangers nor open unsolicited links or attachments

Tips to be cyber safe while transacting payments online

  • Install security software on her devices, choosing one that offers protection against adware & spyware too. Ensure the solution offers a Site Advisor facility so that the green icon (which indicates a link to be safe) will help her know she is in safe territory.
  • Show her the basic signs that mark a website as safe, viz;- web address starts with ‘https’ and not ‘http’; the green padlock symbol; point out that she should always pay heed to warnings from her security software
  • If she wants to conduct banking-on-the-go, download the official app (mobile) for her bank or show her the official https website and help her set up complex password and 2-step authentication. Warn her about Phishing e-mails.
  • To help her make online purchases safely, set up a separate e-mail account, and show her how to verify a site’s authenticity using a Site Advisor, URL address and Visa Secure symbol. Explain the pros and cons of transacting money online using credit cards, debit cards, eShop cards, mobile wallets and assorted payment gateways. This will help her understand which method is safe for online shopping.
  • Lastly, tell her to trust her instincts – “When in doubt, throw it out.”

While these things may come easily to you, know that your mom isn’t the digital native you are and that patience will bode well during this learning process. From time to time, show her examples of potentially harmful mails or spurious apps to give her a practical sense of how things look.

But don’t forget to celebrate! Happy Mother’s Day! Stay safe, stay happy!

Some wonderful resource for moms who want to surf safely:

Are You a “Hmm…” Parent?

A Wake-Up Call to All Digital Age Parents – Listen to Your Child Well

Scene I


“Hmm..?” the query drew out a grunt from behind the newspaper.

“Dad, do you know what Nikhil showed us in class today? It was shocking!”

“Really? What was it?” Turning the page.

“He has downloaded games and wallpapers and some of them are like weird.”

“Hmm hmm??”


“Yeah what? Can’t a man read a paper in peace? What is this great news?”

“Forget it.”

Scene II

“Mom! What is a sadist?”

“Hmmm… what? From where do you hear such words? I don’t know what kind of crowd you mingle with… don’t they ever talk anything informative for your age? Now where are the spices I want? Be a dear and fetch me my glasses. I must finish cooking before the guests arrive.”

You got the gist, didn‘t you? We love our kids very dearly and can’t stay a moment away from them – yet we are so pressured and tired of multitasking that we really don’t listen to them with the attention they deserve. We plan out quality time for kids, take them out on holidays and picnics, tuck them in bed and kiss them goodnight; but here is my question:

Do we really pay attention to what they are trying to share without having multiple thoughts overlapping our minds?

Many a time, we don’t. Our attention span wavers the moment we deduce that there is no threat to our kids. Sometimes, we jump to conclusions and become critical and judgmental; judging the kids, their activities and even their friends. T

he outcome is that kids tend to distance themselves from their parents and seek answers, companionship, comfort and affection elsewhere – these days it’s often online.

It’s tougher when both the parents are working, it leaves you with minimal time for one-on-one interactions. But tweens and teens need to be heard, you know, really heard. Sometimes you need to drop everything in hand and give complete attention to what they are saying.

Stay connected.

I like what my sister does. Even on a crazy work day, she makes it a point to call up her child a number of times, just to listen to her voice, her laughter and hear all the news she has to share. You don’t have to follow a forced “sit down and tell me about your day” kind of talk. That will truly shut your kid up. Instead share a private Mom-Child moment whenever possible; while helping out with homework, or fixing dinner. It’s also fun at times to message him from work – it shows him plainly you are thinking of him all the time.

Don’t Leave Child Alone For Long Stretches with only Gadgets as Company

A lonely child and the internet is a potentially dangerous combination. There are Apps like Whisper that lets the user confide deepest secrets in strangers, as there is no fear of getting identified. You must know that pedophiles might use such apps and other gaming and networking sites to befriend naïve kids, in an attempt to manipulate them into revealing personal information. . To avoid this, you must set rules and activate parental controls on your security software. Initially, monitor all your kid’s online activities, for his safety.

Explain Your Absence

Let your child know why you need to work, go out to attend functions in the evening or participate in social functions. Every time you step out, at first, try to spend some time exclusively with your child, having some funtime together. Don’t rush him, just relax.

Have Cozy Family Times

Dump your own gadgets (including switching off the TV) at times, and let the whole family sit around and chat. Play board or outdoor games together. Take a companionable stroll around the neighbourhood after dinner. These are times when you can get your child to open up to you. Listen without any prejudice. Build bridges of trust and respect. Build bonds of love.

I Love You And Am Always There For You

Say this as often as you can – when you wake them up, when they leave for school, after they are back home, when they go out with friends. And hug them now and then, though teens might do some eye-rolling.

The long and short of it is, if our kids become addicted to gadgets and distanced from us, perhaps we are responsible to some extent. We are not giving them the attention and affection they need. Instead, we are deluging them with devices. Time for a quick rethink and reorienting parenting style, don’t you think?

The stronger the family relations and bonding are, the lesser will be the child’s desire to seek attention online.

Stay safe, stay happy!