Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Protecting Seniors from Identity Theft


Posted by Jenny Backus, Public Policy Team

Every day in this country, someone’s mother, grandfather, or older neighbor is a victim of identity theft. Whether the identity thieves attack through a confusing telemarketing scam, a misleading piece of mail, or over the Internet, seniors and their families are increasingly at risk of long-term financial and emotional damage that can take years to undo.


In order to address this issue, the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of public and private partners like the National Consumer League’s Fraud.org are working together to protect seniors from identity theft. Google will also be recognizing Older Americans Month this May by offering tips for seniors to help them stay safe and secure online.


The FTC’s report of 2012 consumer complaint data recently showed that complaints about identity theft from older Americans are increasing at a faster rate than for any other age group. In fact, identity theft complaints from those over 70 increased by almost 70% since 2010, while complaints from 60 to 70 year olds increased by 53% in the same period.  

Google’s Good to Know site is designed to help educate consumers of all ages about online threats and tools they can use to protect themselves, including information on how to protect themselves from identity theft.

Here are five tips from our security experts:

  • Don’t reply if you see a suspicious email, instant message or webpage asking for your personal or financial information. Identity thieves can steal your information and then use it to withdraw money from your bank account.
  • Never enter your password if you’ve arrived at a site by following a link in an email or chat that you don’t trust.
  • If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account might have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to get money or information from you. Think before responding!
  • Don’t send your password via email, and don’t share your password with others. Legitimate sites won’t ask you to send them your passwords via email, so don’t respond if you get requests for your passwords to online sites.
  • Report any suspicious emails and scams. Many email providers, including Gmail, provide an easy way for you to report fishy emails and scams, and it can help our teams stop similar mail from being sent to you and others.

Seniors around the country can also learn more by attending or viewing by webcast the FTC’s workshop today on protecting seniors from identity theft. With speakers from some of the most trusted consumer groups, local, state and government leaders, and lead experts on fraud prevention, the FTC workshop will focus on forms of ID theft that are particularly significant for seniors, from the risks that seniors face in nursing homes to the identity theft concerns that arise when they file their taxes or seek government assistance, which is increasingly happening online.

Stopping bad actors who target seniors and preventing the rise of identity theft is a shared mission for all of us. Google is committed to making the Internet safer, and protecting our users of all ages.

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