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Identity Theft of Foster Children

Identity Theft of Foster Children
 

Identity theft has become a serious problem for just about everyone these days, which means everyone with a social security number is at risk of having their identity stolen. While those who are constantly doing unsafe business transactions may seem like the most common targets for these thieves, there is a new disturbing trend in this new form of digital larceny — identity theft of children.

With kids having social security numbers they usually don’t know about or don’t use to open credit cards or take out loans until they are at least in their teenage years, they are the perfect targets for identity thieves. Considering they are rarely using their social security numbers for anything involving finances, these stolen identities can often be used for years without being detected.

Thieves Target Kids

The most vulnerable of all children, unfortunately, are those that often need the most protection — foster kids.

As these kids are shuffled from one foster home to the next until they are 18 years old, it is often the foster parents themselves who are the identity thieves. These parent-less children make for easy prey to steal their social security numbers, destroying the child’s credit before they even become adults.

There have been numerous instances of these particular crimes committed over the past few years. Nearly 11 percent of foster children are victimized each year, according to a survey done by AllClear ID, an identity theft protection company. Identities are stolen in a variety of ways already, considering how many different places a child’s social security number is written down as they are growing up — a doctor’s office and a school are two examples of various locations that may not have credible security when it comes to protecting a child’s identity. These locations are vulnerable and are becoming prime targets for identity thieves.

Scammers will usually begin with small loans and then move on to more elaborate money-making schemes with these stolen identities. Once the credit on a social security numbers is tanked — or they are caught using the stolen social — the thieves will ditch the number and move on to the next, leaving the young victims with destroyed credit when they enter adulthood.

How It Works

One of the reasons this scam actually works, however, is due to a flaw in the system itself. Credit bureaus don’t treat social security numbers as unique identifiers, according to DailyFinance.com, so if a number is used with a totally different name, no red flag will pop up in the system. This is one of many things that may need to change if the rate of identity thefts — especially ones involving children — is to decline.

What the Government is Doing About It

There have been a few new laws passed recently to protect people from identity thieves, especially foster children. Last September, the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act was signed into law, which finally addresses the need to clear any bad credit stemming from reports of identity theft of foster children.

One part of a new federal law requires states to run credit checks on older foster children and help resolve cases of identity theft, allowing them to be adults without wrecked credit reports. It also requires child welfare officials to help a foster child fix any problems that may appear on a credit check, which is a service that many nonprofit child advocacy groups already provide.

While this is a great start, the sad truth is that children, like adults, will need to protect their social security numbers and identities from the very beginnings of their lives.

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