How to protect a foster child from ID theft
Keep yourself or someone you know safe from credit fraud
By Karen Haywood Queen | Published: August 1, 2013
Foster kids are at greater risk for identity theft than the general population because more people have access to their private information. Their families may be cash-strapped and view the young person's clean credit as an easy fix to a financial problem.
Help protect yourself or a young person you know by following these tips.
Children in foster care are especially vulnerable to identity theft, which can cripple their ability to get credit when they age out of the system. Our reports examine the roots of the problem, what the system is doing about it and how you can help.
Keep personal information private
- Friends don't need to know a child's Social Security number or the mother's maiden name.
- Don't disclose a youth's Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. If someone is asking for it, ask why they need it and what they'll do to keep it safe.
- Beware of people selling fake IDs. Besides the obvious risk of getting caught with a fake ID, the people involved can misuse the information given to create the ID.
Keep personal information safe
- Store important documents such as Social Security cards and birth certificates in a safe place, preferably locked up -- not on you or the child, in a wallet or backpack.
- Shred unneeded documents that have personal, financial or medical information.
Be safe online
- Delete unsolicited emails that ask for personal information.
- Use strong passwords, updated virus software and firewalls for online accounts and computers.
- Monitor what personal information children are posting online. To ensure a website is secure, look for the lock icon in the address bar and a URL that begins with https//.
- Never store a password on a computer or allow a site to recognize the password every time.
Check and protect credit
- Order and review a credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or directly from the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If a child is under the age of 18, a parent or guardian may have to initiate a written request.
- Check the youth's name with 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.
- Opt out of preapproved credit offers by going to optoutprescreen.com or call toll free 888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688).
- Monitor the mail and be suspicious of preapproved credit offers addressed to a child or teen.
After a theft
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IDtheft.gov. Or call 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338).
- Have the youth work with a trusted, financially stable adult to clear up credit problems, preferably before they turn 18. The child should shadow the adult to learn how to handle problems next time.
- Place a fraud alert or freeze on the child's credit reports to help prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts using that name.
- Go directly to the businesses involved with a copy of the birth certificate proving that the victim was underage when the credit was taken out.
- File a police report.
- Teach the child what you've done wrong or right with your own credit, and advise them on the importance of building good credit.
- Q&A with author Emma Johnson on protecting credit as a single parent – As a single mom going through a big life change, it's critical to stay on top of your credit because that's when you're going to need it most ...
- Credit freeze laws in all 50 states – States have passed credit freeze laws to combat identity theft and fraud. Here are the details for each state ...
- 3 immigrants share how they achieved credit scores over 750 – Immigrants can achieve high credit scores in the U.S., even though our system is confusing ...