Foster youth and identity theft
Authored by a Symantec employee
Imagine turning 18 and learning your credit history has been damaged due to identity theft. As a result, you could face obstacles landing a job, renting an apartment, or even getting a credit card. Now, imagine all of this and not having anyone to turn to for help.
That’s the situation in which some foster youth find themselves as they reach the age where they transition out of the foster care system.
Resolving identity theft can take time and effort
Identity theft can be a challenging crime to recover from in the best of circumstances – say, as an adult with the time, experience, and resources to do what needs to be done. The process can include hours on the phone, calling credit bureaus and the businesses where the damage was done, notifying the Federal Trade Commission, filing a police report, reviewing your credit reports, and the list goes on and on.
More than 23,000 foster children age out of the U.S. foster care system every year. And while statistics on foster youth and identity theft aren’t readily available, estimates are about 5 percent of the foster youth population ages 16 and older have some form of bad credit.
Why foster children become ID theft victims
Why are foster children vulnerable to identity theft? Experts say it’s because the youth may move from foster home to foster home. Along the way, many adults have access to their personal information, including Social Security numbers. These adults can include foster parents, caseworkers and case aides, and group home providers, as well as volunteers within the foster care system.
Federal law requires children in foster care to be provided copies of their credit reports, as well as assistance in resolving any inaccuracies in those reports, when they turn 16. But the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) notes that foster care caseworkers are overburdened with growing caseloads, and even if caseworkers identify an issue, foster kids can age out of the system before it’s resolved.
On top of these challenges, there’s no way of knowing who still has access to the victim’s personal information. That means if the child’s name and credit are restored, an identity thief could reopen accounts or make new purchases.
FAST: a new program to help foster children victims
To assist with this situation, Symantec has launched a new program. It’s aimed at helping foster youth protect and restore their identities with the support of Norton and LifeLock experts, solutions, and services. The program is called FAST, for Fostering a Secure Tomorrow.
As part of the launch, Symantec has initially partnered with three nonprofit organizations:
- The Bill Wilson Center, Santa Clara, Calif.
- Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK), Phoenix, Ariz.
- Promises2Kids, San Diego, Calif.
In addition, the company will partner with a broader network of community groups and organizations, including the Identity Theft Resource Center and TechSoup. Symantec experts will offer cyber security education, access to donated Symantec/Norton software products, and identity restoration services from LifeLock. Also, Symantec employees will mentor youth, provide program training, and advocate to build strong policies that protect foster children.
“Nationwide, there’s an opportunity to directly educate at least 76,000 foster youths ages 16 and older on ways to prevent identity theft and credit fraud,” said Eva Velasquez, CEO and president, Identity Theft Resource Center. “Our goal is to uncover important findings that will help us all to improve our approach to how we can better protect the identities of these foster children and young adults.”
It’s hard learning you’re a victim of identity theft. Foster children who have the assistance of the FAST program may be in a better place than most youth in dealing with this difficult situation.
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