During the lockdown period it was becoming evident that our daily lives were taking place online more so than anywhere else. Whilst writing this on my 100th day on lockdown, I can honestly say I would be lost without it. I wouldn’t be able to contact friends, family, order my shopping and I wouldn’t be able to do my job without the many brilliant platforms, apps and programs available. Our brilliant Facebook group at Leep1 wouldn’t have existed without the lockdown and I probably wouldn’t be writing this and discovered a whole new side to our wonderful community at Leep1.

However with every technology there is always a dark side. When planes could fly for the first time people could travel for the very first time in the air. However it wasn’t long before they were used for less humane means and mass destruction.

The same can be said for spending time online. We are faced with a myriad of special life changing offers, new friend requests from people we don’t know and emails from Nigeria requesting our bank details. At Leep1 we are pioneers in getting our members with learning disabilities online to access new opportunities, learn new skills and advocate and campaign for learning disability rights. These are naturally all great progressive aspects of what we do at Leep1.

As chief Twitterari for Café Leep I have seen only one trolling comment in 5 years in respect of the 23,800 tweets I have sent, which is naturally a good thing. When I see a follower that is called MakeMoneyNow or something far worse, I can naturally choose to block it.

I have been schooled along the way as the technology has developed. This is why I have lost count at the number of emails I have in my personal account. I just don’t open half of them and they sit there for years gathering dust as when I first discovered phishing emails I was advised not to bother opening them… maybe I took the advice one step too far, but better to have 5,000 emails sitting there than a negative figure sitting in my bank.

So just last week as part of learning disability week #LDWeek we ran a Twitter masterclass on Zoom everyday. This was a great example of how we are promoting digital inclusion and teaching new skills. Whilst this is a great tool to share and promote ideas, we naturally had to highlight the negative aspects of twitter.

We highlighted the accounts we had blocked and why: some were phishing and some were just downright inappropriate. We suggested only following people who share the same ideals to create a positive timeline. We started with the old computer adage of GIGO that I learned at school in 1989 – garbage in, garbage out. So if you follow garbage, you will get garbage following you and this will likely cause you problems in the long run.

We covered hashtags and the best ones to use. Some hashtags that you may choose to use may also bring you unwanted followers. So despite concentrating on adults with learning disabilities of twitter, I would never use the word adult with a hashtag in front of it.

We mainly suggested that our members follow trusted organisations. We saw that one of our members Sapphire was following Leep1, People Matters, Leeds Autism AIM, Forum Central, St Annes, Asking You, Café Leep, Advonet, People in Action, Easy on The I, Through The Maze, and Connect in The North. We think that’s cool! Bernadette, who recently signed up to twitter also had a similar list of organisations that she follows.

So we think our twitter classes went alright but there are always some sharks out there so these sessions were run in conjunction with sessions about Scam Awareness.

Scam Awareness with SAFER Project

The sessions were run by Angela Cawthra from West Yorkshire Trading Standard on Zoom. Angela is the Safer Team Community Project Officer. At these sessions Angela helped our members understand the role of West Yorkshire Trading Standards and The SAFER Project in particular.

The SAFER Project (Scams And Frauds Education for Residents) helps older people and vulnerable adults in West Yorkshire understand and protect themselves from scams, frauds and doorstep crime. They deliver FREE informal and interactive community workshops on a number of topics, including the Scams and Fraud sessions of which we had the pleasure of being at via the zoom sessions.

At the Scams and Fraud workshop our members were made aware of the most common types of scams and frauds in circulation, how to avoid them and where to report them to. The sessions were interactive and informal and encouraged participants to share their experiences, focusing on how to deal with scammers confidently and what the most common scams are. At the end of the session our members received free resources and signposting  so that they could  access the right support and advice if they ever needed  it.

In our sessions Angela touched upon offers that appear to be too good to be true, Facebook posts about winning iPads, fraudulent emails wanting you to provide your bank details. Angela explained to all that such communications were indeed fraudulent and designed to trick you. We also covered what private information is such as National Insurance Numbers, Bank account Numbers, and yourpostal address.

On further research we found the https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam/ to be a good source.

Listed On their website it explains that it might be a scam if:

  • it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s much cheaper than you’d expect
  • someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • you’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
  • you’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union
  • you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
  • you haven’t had written confirmation of what’s been agreed

So a downside of being online can be the scammers that our circling around flushing the internet with crazy offers and wild requests. Your options are to REPORT, IGNORE or DELETE.

For more information about the SAFER Project  please call 0113 5350242 or email [email protected]

By Darren Nixon