Scam-busters — helping people with disabilities be safe online
Some people with disabilities need extra support to be safe online. Using funding from InternetNZ to carry out research-based training, two University of Auckland academics have been teaching people what scams are, how they appear, and how to deal with them.
Dr Rebecca Sharp is one of the two academics developing the training. She and Dr Katrina Phillips saw the need for people with intellectual disabilities to get specialised training to recognise a scam. Their training uses material from real scams to help equip participants with the knowledge they need.
“Our training has two parts,” Rebecca says. “First, we show learners lots of examples of scams and non-scams, and we explain the ways they can tell the difference between them.”
Once the learner can tell the difference accurately, they then go through what to do when they encounter a scam, such as deleting the email and avoiding links.
“We practice with the person until they have learned all the steps. To make sure that our training has been effective, we show learners new scams they have never seen to see whether they correctly identify them as scam and address it appropriately.”
The training has been a success, with all learners able to now recognise a scam.
“Our participants have told us that they now feel more confident using the Internet and that the training was really helpful.”
The staff in the organisations who support the people with disabilities have also reported confidence that the person they support can recognise a scam and be safe online.
“We are hoping to work alongside more people with disabilities and the organisations who support them to expand the training.”
The team were able to carry out the project thanks to funding from InternetNZ’s 2021/22 Digital Inclusion Grant. In this instance, Rebecca and Katrina were granted $20,000.
“We were delighted to be given a grant by InternetNZ to pilot our training. They also helped connect us with other people interested in reducing inequities in Internet access, and for developing a plan to evaluate our project. We have loved working with InternetNZ. They created a welcoming and supportive space for us to conduct our project.”
After such a positive start to their project, the duo are now hoping to expand the reach of their training further. Rebecca believes that there is demand and an opportunity to help more people with disabilities recognise and respond to scams.
“We are planning to expand in a number of ways,” she says. “Initially, we’re working to determine what types of support people with dyslexia need to stay safe online. We are also exploring whether training could be more general around what is a safe or unsafe online interaction.”
This will move the scope of their training beyond scams, and will allow people to learn to be safe in a broader range of situations.
“We are exploring whether training could be delivered at a group rather than individual level, while remaining tailored to the needs of each person.”
Dr Rebecca Sharp and Dr Katrina Phillips are both Senior Lecturers and Psychologists at the University of Auckland.
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