Imagine for a moment what it was like when you turned 18 and became a legal adult. Perhaps you felt that the rest of your life was unfolding before you too fast. Perhaps you felt extra responsibility. Or you felt a little bit excited because you could begin to experience, for the first time, some of the freedoms that come with being a young adult.
It’s likely that you still received a majority or the entirety of your financial support from your parents. It’s likely that you remained living rent free in the house in which you grew up. It’s likely that you received access to transportation, healthcare and a network of support. Maybe you received an acceptance letter to a college your family could afford to send you to so that you could further your education.
Now, imagine what it would have been like if you had none of those things.
Foster youths who age out of the system, more often than not, enter society with no place to live, no income, no transportation and no health insurance. They generally lack a significant emotional support system or financial safety net to catch them if they experience unemployment or homelessness. Many have also experienced significant and lasting trauma and are coping with a multitude of emotional and developmental challenges.
Add on to all that, the fact that foster youths are among the most common victims of identity fraud.
Yes, that’s right. The personal information of a foster child is passed through many hands during the time he or she is in care. This makes him or her exceedingly vulnerable to identity theft. Not only are these teens transitioning to adulthood alone while tasked with carrying the weight of emotional damage, unemployment, homelessness and poor healthcare, but often, they also discover that their privacy has been violated, credit history destroyed and they are starting life with a pile of debt due to their identity being stolen.
There are ways to prevent this from happening!
If you or someone you know is fostering a teenager, work with him or her to take the following steps to prevent them from future challenges:
- Take great care and use discretion in sharing personal information with others. This includes social security number, date of birth and address.
- Lock up important documents. Carry only a basic identification, such as a driver’s license or school identification card. Avoid carrying a social security card or passport.
- Shred all documents with personal information before throwing them away.
- Beware of fake ID vendors. Often, they are actually using their access to personal information for their own criminal use.
- Be aware of potential online threats and behave accordingly. Use very strong passwords and use different passwords for different accounts. Never store a password on a browser that will keep the user logged in, especially when using a public computer or a friend’s computer. Do not check personal accounts when using public wireless internet.
- Beware of online phishing scams. These include emails or pup-ups that may seem like they come from a legitimate source but prompt you to give personal information via email or online.
- Research how your state is implementing the federal credit check requirement. Make sure the teen’s caseworker checks his or her credit score annually after he or she turns 16. Strongly encourage any youth 18 or older to order an annual free credit report.
If he or she feels that private information has already been compromised, take the steps outlined here.
Click here for a full and detailed guide for protecting foster youths from fraud.
For more advice on how to protect all teens from potential fraud, check out these other resources”
Thanks to Katie McRee for this excellent post. Katie helps FaithBridge communicate more effectively and efficiently as our favorite marketing intern and is completing her degree in the business school at Georgia Tech.