Our nation’s 460,000 foster children already have a rough start on life. Soit's especially heartbreaking when identity thieves cause additional problems for the children who exist foster care each year.
These young adults have a vision of becoming self-reliant productive individuals. But they’re stymied when their identities are stolen and their credit records are blighted. They can’t lease housing, secure education or auto loans, or open bank accounts.
Increasingly, identity fraud threatens all children. Victims 19 and younger accounted for 8 percent of identity theft complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission in 2010, compared with 7 percent the previous year.
But foster children are particularly vulnerable.
Fortunately, this problem is getting attention from those able to address it.
At the national level, the FTC and the U.S. Justice Department are co-hosting a day-long forum on the issue in Washington, D.C., on July 12. Representatives from government, business, nonprofits, legal services and victim advocacy organizations will explore the nature, prevention and resolution of identity fraud that target children, particularly foster youths.
As the chief executive officer of CyberScout and a foster parent, I’m tremendously pleased to be participating in the forum, because I know our foster care system can better impede identity thieves.
For example, foster kids’ identification cards, a key tool for them to receiver support, are identity thief magnets. The cards display children’s Social Security numbers, an exposure that other consumers don’t have. The cards are accessible to many people who sometimes turn out to be identity thieves—birth parents, relatives and even foster parents.
Ending the use of Social Security numbers as identifiers is just one protection in federal legislation, the Foster Youth Financial Security Act, that Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island is spearheading. Among other things, the bill would require foster care agencies to review and clear inaccuracies in their wards’ credit reports before their release from the system.
CyberScout is proud to have helped craft this important measure.
Until it is enacted, other efforts are underway at local levels.
For example, in April, Colorado enacted a law with a credit report review provision similar to the one in the federal legislation.
California and Connecticut have similar laws, although California’s hasn’t gone into full effect because of state budgetary problems.
Additionally, we’re working with FirstStar and the Children’s Advocacy Institute in California to conduct educational identity management sessions for foster youth in the Los Angeles area. We’ve also been an active contributor on the legislative front by working with Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin on passing a bill to protect foster youth from financial abuse.
Children need to be better protected from identity thieves. Please watch the July 12 forum to better understand your children’s risk. And please support the Foster Youth Financial Security Act.