Statistics on identity theft among foster youth are difficult to find, likely because most regions do not track identity theft within foster care systems. Given this reality, and the lack of information in general, Symantec and The Identity Theft Resource Center conducted a survey to better understand identity theft’s impact on foster youth who are 14 and older.
The survey was distributed to three foster youth organizations Bill Wilson Center, Promises2Kids and Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) which are participating in Fostering A Secure Tomorrow (FAST), a Symantec Corporate Responsibility initiative launched in 2018 to curb the risk of identity theft faced by foster youth. This survey, which examines a small population of foster youth in California and Arizona, provides a basis for evaluating trends in behavior and habits on this topic. Scroll down for an infographic on the survey’s findings.
Children have always been an attractive target for identity thieves because their credit reports are clean and are often left unmonitored for many years, providing ample time to cause substantial damage to the child’s credit.
Foster youth are even more vulnerable to becoming victims of identity theft because they face unique risks when it comes to identity protection and cyber security. For instance, as they go from one home to another, an expanding group of adults gain access to their private information (sensitive health information and personally identifiable information (PII)). This information is also stored in case management software and is typically accessed by several adults during their time in care, opening up opportunities for misuse.
As Ty Shay, SVP and CMO of Norton & LifeLock told media outlet TriplePundit last month, “no one has a vested interest in their identity.”
The survey found that, like most teenagers, foster youth are not checking their credit reports. Sixty-five percent reported that they did not access their credit report while in foster care and 78 percent of the youth surveyed were not confident in their ability to understand their credit report.
This survey also reaffirmed that identity theft continues to be an issue, with 15 percent of respondents indicating that they have already been a victim (by the age of 18). In conversations with these teens, we learned that identity theft has impacted them in terrible ways: some became homeless, others were charged with crimes they did not commit or denied financial support. All of them had to spend time and the limited resources they had to resolve the fraud.
How we’re making a difference
Symantec’s FAST program is helping to prevent young people from falling victim to identity theft and other related cyber risks. The program is currently offered in San Jose and San Diego, California and in Phoenix, Arizona supporting youth aged 16-21 years.
The FAST program includes three main facets of support: cyber security education, software tools, and restoration services. Symantec offers in-person trainings, workshops and webinars; free resources and toolkits to change behaviors that put foster youth at risk of identity theft. We’ve also donated easy-to-use security software to help nonprofits and foster kids keep their information safe. Finally, we’re providing restorative LifeLock services to help those directly affected by identity theft.
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