Against all odds, Caren’s aging out of the foster youth system and ready to strike out on her own. By all accounts, she’s done quite well — graduating from high school, attending college, and earning $30,000 a year working part-time as a store manager. She even bought a car and has three months’ rent saved to get an apartment.
The problem is, Caren’s birth mother stole her identity and ruined Caren’s credit history. As a result, no one will rent to her. Caren’s transitional housing is about to end, and she’ll soon have no place to live.
Why foster youth become victims of identity theft
Caren isn’t her real name, but she’s a real victim of child identity theft, something that’s all too common among foster youth. That’s because of all the people who have access to a foster child’s documentation and personal information — biological parents, any number of foster parents, foster agencies and program personnel.
In this case, Caren’s biological mother used her identity for cable television and other household bills. This apparently went on for years. When Caren discovered the problem, she could’ve filed a police report, but she worried what would happen to her mother. She also worried what would happen to her siblings who still live at home with her mother.
So, Caren faces homelessness instead.
“Foster youth have so much that’s out of their control,” said Eva Velasquez, CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center. “Not only is their information being shared and, unfortunately, often not in a secure way, they don’t have that parent or guardian behind them, trying to help.”
Symantec’s new program to help foster youth identity theft victims
With situations like Caren’s in mind, Symantec has launched a new program to help foster youth and the nonprofits that support them. It’s called FAST, Fostering a Secure Tomorrow. FAST will help foster youth protect and restore their identities, using the support of Norton and LifeLock experts, solutions, and services.
Symantec will partner with the Identity Theft Resource Center, TechSoup, and a network of community groups and organizations to assist foster youth. Initially, FAST will work with three foster youth-focused nonprofits. These are Bill Wilson Center and Promises2Kids in California, and Aid to Adoption of Special Kids in Arizona.
Symantec will provide cyber security education, access to security products, and identity restoration services. Symantec employee volunteers will mentor youth, provide program training, and advocate for strong policies that help protect foster children.
Caren isn’t alone. There are stories like hers across the foster youth system. And they illustrate the need for programs like FAST to not only restore the identities of foster youth victims, but also help protect these young people against becoming identity theft victims in the first place.
This blog was originally posted on Symantec.com. Symantec proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.