CAI Findings Support Legislation to Protect Foster Children From Identity Theft
In a recent series titled “Burdened Beginnings,” The Huffington Post examined the problem of child identity theft. Stories focused on data breaches in public schools, parents preying on their own children and foster children who have aged out of the program only to find that their identity has been stolen and credit wrecked.
Experts say that foster children are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because their personal information passes through many hands, increasing the chance their Social Security numbers will be used to commit fraud.
Identity thieves who prey upon foster children are targeting a group that already faces financial obstacles. According to a study by USD School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) and First Star, less than 3 percent of foster children earn a four-year college degree after leaving the foster system, less than half have full-time jobs by the age of 24 and nearly 40 percent have been homeless. Read the story, "CAI Unveils The Fleecing of Foster Children Report at Congressional Briefing."
This past fall, President Obama signed a law with a provision that requires all states help resolve cases of identity theft of older foster children before they age out of the system. But many experts feel this is not enough. Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) has introduced the Foster Youth Financial Security Act, which goes further by prohibiting states from using Social Security numbers to identify foster children.
According to CAI national policy director Amy Harfeld, the pending bill would protect foster children from identity theft by reducing the public exposure of their sensitive information.
One story in the “Burdened Beginnings” series focuses on Mercediz Hand, a former foster child and 24-year-old mother of two, who found that someone has been using her identity since she was 10-years-old. Her credit was ruined when the identity thief not only took out a mortgage, but also racked up more than $3,000 in unpaid cellphone bills.
As a result of the damage identity thieves caused to her credit, Hand could not qualify for an apartment. Over the summer, she was forced to sleep in her car. However, the car was soon repossessed because Hand defaulted her 21 percent interest rate car loan—which was the lowest rate any lender would offer with such a damaged credit rating.