Foster Children and Identity Theft

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I've talked before about the horrible act of stealing the identity of children.  Identity thieves and sometimes even parents steal a child's unused Social Security number because it provides them with a clean credit report; the number can be used with any name and date of birth because no credit history files exist that tie it to the child's identity.  There's one group of children that's at an even higher risk than others, and unfortunately these are the children who need a safe and trustworthy environment more than anyone else.

I'm referring to children who are in foster care.  These children are often moved from one foster home to another until they turn 18, at which point they are no longer eligible for care and have to make their own way in the world.  This can be easier said than done, especially if their identity was stolen somewhere along the way; their credit could be ruined before they even have a chance to establish it, and it can take months or years to correct the damage that's been done.

Part of the problem that makes foster children easier targets than other children is the fact that they are often moved from one foster home to another several times while in the system.  Identifying information is distributed to each foster home, and sometimes the info is even sent multiple times per year even if the child isn't moved.  The ID cards provided to foster parents includes the child's name, date of birth and Social Security number on the same card; this provides everything that an identity thief would need to hijack the child's identity and establish new credit lines using the child's SSN. In the foster care system, a wide range of people have access to a child's Social Security number -and organized identity theft rings know this.

As if that isn't bad enough, there's also a possibility that one of the foster parents a child stays with, or parents, grandparents, social workers and those who have access to the home, could steal his or her identity.  Though it's upsetting to think about someone in such trustworthy positions taking advantage of a child,the sad truth is children are a favorite target of professional id theft rings --and parents who prey on their children's identities regularly.   

Steps are being taken to try and eliminate the threat of identity theft for foster children -- The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act which was signed into law in September requires states to run credit checks on foster children who are nearing adulthood so that identity theft cases can be found while the child is still in the system.  If identity theft is discovered, the state foster care agency can help to fix the problem and repair the child's credit before he ages out of the program.

The Foster Youth Financial Security Act, introduced by Representative James Langevin of Rhode Island, seeks to stop foster care agencies from identifying children through their Social Security numbers so that the SSN no longer appears on ID cards.  

Child protection agencies such as the Children's Advocacy Institute in San Diego, CA and First Star, a nonprofit that works with victims of child abuse and neglect are also pushing for the removal of Social Security numbers as identifiers; they hope that by preventing everyone who comes in contact with a foster child's case from having access to the child's SSN they will be able to significantly reduce the chances of a foster child having his identity stolen.
Journalists and identity theft experts and advocates continue to play a critical role in raising heightened awareness to the plight and impact of children who are victims of identity theft crimes.

Huffington Post reporter Gerry Smith --has been sharing real-life stories in his eye-opening series; Burdened Beginnings a series examining child identity theft and foster children who struggle to overcome identity theft. 
Nationally honored and respected identity theft experts Linda Foley, Jay Foley and Sheila Gordon, formerly of the Identity Theft Resource Center, have recently launched ID Theft Info Source a new company they've founded that will allow them to further expand their long-term efforts to fight identity theft. Among other things they are actively researching child identity theft trends and working with several legislators and governmental agencies to help generate stronger legislation and effective solutions to find remedies for victims of this crime.

Much more needs to be done, however.  Stay informed of today's id theft trends that impact children and find out how you can support efforts to combat identity theft.

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