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Using Interactive Theatre to Increase Cybersecurity Preparedness and Prevent Scams Against Older Adults

Scammers, who use technology and social engineering to steal personal information and cash, disproportionately target the elderly. Researchers created an interactive theatre performance, “This Is Not a Scam!!”, based on victim interviews that discuss scams and the strategies to counter them. They’ll update their script to reveal new scams and present the play to additional audiences. 

Project funded by the CCI Hub

Rationale and Background

Interactive theatre creates immersive experiences that involve the audience in the storytelling while building community, creating connections, and breaking down social  isolation. 

Performances based  on peoples’ lived experiences have effectively addressed difficult social problems. 

This form of theatre can give voice to victims, help them process trauma, enhance peer support, and build community awareness and capacity to defend against cybersecurity threats. 


Researchers will conduct online interviews with people who participated in previous performances of  “This Is Not a Scam!!” 

Story segments on evolving technological and personal vulnerabilities will be incorporated into the updated script.

Actors will be drawn from Virginia Tech faculty and students, and the community. 

Researchers will identify new performance locations (public libraries,  retirement homes, community organizations, museums, etc.).  

After presentations of the updated script, the  program will be evaluated by audience surveys, ethnographic observational methods, and post-show Q&As.

Projected Outcomes

  • The project will advance researchers’ understanding of cybersecurity threats and  communities’ cybersecurity preparedness related to online scams. 
  • Performances in new areas will increase awareness of these crimes, inspiring the creation of community-based prevention strategies. This will enhance victim autonomy, reduce isolation and silence, and empower communities to collaborate on defenses.
  • Researchers anticipate offering policy and program recommendations  to educate communities and individuals about scams. 
  • Researchers will present the play at the annual CCI Symposium in 2024.