Throughout the past year, identity theft scams have continued to grow at an alarming rate. According to The Identity Theft Resource Center, approximately 15 million Americans were affected by identity theft in 2017. What most don’t know, however, is that children are especially vulnerable, in part, because no one may notice the crime for years.
In light of National Foster Care Month, we thought it was important to recognize how to keep foster children from falling victim to a cybercrime. Having your personal information stolen and damaged can result in many obstacles when it comes to landing a job, renting an apartment, or even getting a credit card. Most of us have the support of family members to fall back on, but imagine not having anyone to turn to for help. This is the situation in which some foster children find themselves as they come to the age where they shift out of the foster care system.
So why are foster children susceptible to identity theft? This can be because of the fact that the children move from foster home to foster home. Throughout a foster child’s time in the system, many adults have access to their personal information, including Social Security numbers. The ITRC reports that foster care caseworkers can become overwhelmed with growing caseloads and, even if there was an issue identified, by the time it was to get resolved, foster kids can age out of the system. To make matters worse, there is no way of knowing who still has access to the child’s personal information. This means if the child’s name and credit are restored, an identity thief could reopen accounts or make unwarranted purchases- an unfortunate circumstance.
How To Prevent:
- Shred unneeded documents that have personal, financial, or medical information.
- Be safe online: Monitor what personal information the child is posting online and make sure the website is secure.
- Sign up for a service that protects your identity and credit report to keep on eye on the child’s personal data.
- Check the child’s name with their date of birth, and then check the Social Security number separately. Identity thieves often use the Social Security number with a different name and birth date.
- For things like school enrollment, health care access, and welfare assistance, a separate I.D. number, which only corresponds to the child’s temporary status as a foster child, would prevent at least some of the access to their more permanent information.
If you have any other tips to help prevent these scams in hopes to protect our fostered youth, please feel free to comment below.