What is FCA?

Child Advocacy Blog


Florida Foster Children Must Fight – and Be Protected From – Identity Theft

March 3rd, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care

By Howard Talenfeld

identity theft by d70focus from flickrWhen Todd Davis announces with confidence on national TV how LifeLock will protect subscribers from identity theft, it’s likely he’s not marketing to foster children.

Yet they’re just as vulnerable to identity theft as anyone else. Even more so, by some accounts. As a Florida attorney focused on protecting the rights of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including those in foster care, I have seen the potential for abuse and identity theft these children face. We need to help them learn how to protect themselves today.

In a recent Newsweek article, “Sabotaged by the System,” writer Jesse Ellison told the story of Tyrome Sams, a 20-year-old former foster child. When he applied for credit cards, Sams was repeatedly refused. He later learned that eight years earlier someone had swiped his identity and accrued hundreds of dollars in utility bills.

“Sams’s case isn’t just an unfortunate fluke,” Ellison wrote in the magazine (http://www.newsweek.com/id/183711). “Identity theft among foster kids is common, and for good reason: they’re easy targets. They move often among various homes and schools, so their personal data pass through dozens of hands.”

The magazine reported that 84,000 California foster kids like Sam might have been victims of identity theft and fraud, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Another study noted one in 20 foster kids is a victim of identity theft. The fix can be thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. So endemic was the problem that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 required credit checks for kids in state care when they turn 16.

What can foster kids and their guardians do to keep their credit clean?

– Act soon. Long before foster children approach the age of 18 and as part of their plan for independent living ,they can conduct a credit checks. Certainly by the age of 17, they should check their credit, so that they can resolve any issues long before they turn 18 and need credit to live independently. There are even some services that allow them to run a check of their name with their social security number.

–  Keep the numbers close. Foster kids – especially those who change homes frequently – unwittingly are giving their sensitive information to a large cast of characters, some of whom may have ill intent.

– Call for help. If you suspect someone’s stolen your identity or your credit has been affected, tell your guardian ad litem, attorney ad litem or other legal representative.

–  Learn more. Read about other victims and find out how NOT to become a victim of identity theft yourself.

Foster children have enough potential pitfalls in their lives to not have to also worry about identity theft. Staying smart about the numbers and information that defines who you are today is critical to keeping your ID your own.

Leave a Reply