October 26, 2023 13:03
Elderly Koreans are using online services more and more, but many still struggle despite support from the government and are vulnerable to digital fraud.
According to a study by the Ministry of Science and ICT and National Information Society Agency, online shopping by senior citizens more than doubled from 17.5 percent in 2019 to 42.4 percent last year among those in their 60s and from 15.4 percent to 23.5 percent among the over-70s.
Online banking usage also rose to 53.5 percent for those in their 60s and to over 20 percent among the over-70s.
But many are scared of the online world and vulnerable to scams. A total of 358 cases of social media fraud were reported to an e-commerce center run by the Seoul city government last year and 41.3 percent of the victims were over 50.
Ryu Soo-ja (80) from Incheon gave up trying to buy a hat online in July due to fears of getting scammed. "I tried to enter my credit card information and password but got worried about exposing the information," she said, "I heard about cases where people paid money but never received the products."
A 68-year-old Seoul resident does not buy anything on the internet. "I received a text message on my phone about aid money from the government during the coronavirus pandemic and put in my bank information," he said. "Later I found out that W1,000 was being withdrawn every month. My son had to help me solve the problem" (US$1=W1,350).
"Now I'm afraid of getting scammed again, so I don't do any financial transactions on my phone," he added.
A 65-year-old in the southern port city of Pohang said, "I feel bad asking my son for help every time I have to buy something on the internet."
An officer at the National Police Agency warned, "You should stop any online transaction if the business details of the seller cannot be verified and call the police. But it's not easy for senior citizens to look for such information."
Jeong Se-eun, a professor at Chungnam National University said, "Senior citizens should be taught how to deal with internet fraud and get help."
The government spends tens of billions of won every year to teach senior citizens how to use online services, but critics say they are ineffective. The main reason is that the elderly are often not even familiar with the devices that are being used.
Song Joo-in (69) from Songpa in southern Seoul said, "I took digital classes for several months at a community center, but I'm not used to handling smartphones, so the class was difficult to follow."
A 76-year-from Eunpyeong in northeastern Seoul attended a class run by a senior citizens' center for three months on how to use digital devices but said such lessons were not helpful in everyday life. "I'm not familiar with smartphone functions, so I end up going to a bank branch or turn to others for help," she said.
The government set aside a W69.8 billion budget this year to teach senior citizens to use digital kiosks and other devices, but critics say more intuitive training is necessary for people who are unfamiliar with digital screens and the baffling images they display.
Lee Min-ah at Chungang University said, "The current government training method simply doesn't reflect the reality of senior citizens. The government needs to listen to their opinions and improved the way they are taught these things."
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