The Tragic Risk of Identity Theft for Foster Children

Every year in the U.S., 250,000 children enter the foster care system, according to Adopt US Kids. Ranging from birth to 21 years of age, these children face enormous challenges as they wait to unite with their birth families, join a foster family or age out.

Foster parents also face enormous challenges caring for these children. Foster parents have the responsibility to nurture them under their care and protect them from a variety of dangers. One of those dangers is identity theft.

Older children separated from their parents often create emotional barriers. They typically feel they cannot trust anyone and have trouble forming healthy relationships. Some crave lost emotional connections while still others reach out to strangers or become exceptionally clingy to caregivers.

One of the inherent dangers for children in the latter category manifests itself in the formation of inappropriate relationships, in person and online.

Fostering Safe Online Practices

The faceless environment of the Internet gives some children a sense of security. It is easier to imagine a person hiding behind the monitor as a trusted friend or advisor. A smiling Gravatar and playful language contribute to this false sense of security.

Parents must continually monitor online activities and model healthy, loving relationships. Age-appropriate discussions about online relationships and using caution are necessary to help children understand and follow safe Net-surfing rules that protect them from identity thieves. Parents should instruct all children not to give out personal information like last name, address, phone number or the name of their school that could be used to locate them for in-person visits.

Protecting the Foster Child From Online Identity Theft

In a 2012 project where 40,000 child identities were scanned, 10.2 percent of those identities showed evidence of identity theft, according to Richard Power, Carnegie Mellon University fellow. Another report shows that instances of familial identity abuse often resulted in larger monetary damage than incidents committed by non-relative parties.

By the time parents discover their child’s personal information is corrupted, the damage could be severe.

Purchasing online identity theft protection is one of the best ways to protect minors from having their information pirated by scammers and con artist.

Programs designed specifically for children, like kID Sure, a product offered by Identity Guard, look for credit activity, criminal records and utility records that could indicate someone is using a child’s name or social security number without permission.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Life Time of Security

As many as 50 percent of foster care children exit the system only to discover they have been victims of identity fraud, according to Sacramento Bee journalist Paresh Dave (3). This number reflects a high concentration of involvement from family members that use a child’s social security number to apply for loans, credit cards and utility services.

Finding an inactive credit file bolsters criminals’ confidence to use that dormant information without fear.

Working with caseworkers, foster parents should establish a monitoring program for their child’s personal information. If there is evidence someone is checking a file periodically, thieves will be less likely to attempt to use that file for personal gain.

With pressures at home, school and work, it’s difficult enough to grow up In today’s society. Parents can help children protect their financial future by monitoring their online presence.

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