Five Things Foster Youth Should Know About Digital Safety
Children have always been attractive targets of digital thieves. They have clean, typically unmonitored credit reports that offer criminals ample time to cause substantial damage to the child’s credit. Often, this fraud goes unnoticed until the victim reaches adulthood and applies for their first credit card, job, home, or anything else that might require a credit check.
Foster youth are at even higher risk than the average child. As they move from one home to another, an expanding group of adults gains access to their sensitive private information. This data – like a Social Security Number (SSN) – is typically stored in case management software, allowing adults with access to those systems the opportunity to misuse personal data and information.
Unfortunately, most children don’t realize they’ve been a victim of a digital crime or identity theft until they’ve transitioned out of the foster system and attempt to use their credit for the first time. They may be rejected from credit cards, housing, or job applications – ramifications that can have a long-term, detrimental impact on their ability to successfully transition into adulthood.
In honor of National Foster Care Month, intelligent safety company Aura and national non-profit organization Foster Love - Together We Rise, are collaborating to deliver current, transitioning and former foster youth – as well as those responsible for their care – around the country with information on how to protect themselves from digital theft, as well as how to prevent it in the first place.
1. Request Credit Reports Three Times A Year
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion each offer a free credit report once a year. Consider requesting a credit report from one every four months, rather than all three at one time. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, until the end of 2022, you can order a credit report as often as once a week through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Whether you contact a credit bureau directly or use Annual Credit Report’s online option, these free services can allow you to monitor if someone may have used your SSN to open a new line of credit.
2. Set Up Free Fraud Alerts
Each of the three credit bureaus also offer free fraud alerts. Whether you’ve misplaced your wallet and are hoping to prevent a criminal from using your credit, or have already discovered suspicious activity on a bank account or credit report, contact one of the three credit bureaus and ask to set up a free fraud alert. The bureau you contact will notify the two others on your behalf.
3. Freeze Your Credit
If you’ve already experienced fraud, consider freezing your credit. Nearly 30% of those experiencing identity crime are repeat victims, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report. While it can be inconvenient to freeze your credit, this is a great way to prevent identity thieves from opening new lines of credit using your SSN. Contact any of the three credit bureaus and freeze your credit for free; and, similar to the process with fraud alerts, the one you contact will notify the two other bureaus.
4. Explore An All-In-One Solution
If you’ve discovered your identity has been stolen or your credit has been damaged, it’s worth considering an all-in-one security solution, like Aura, that offers identity, financial, and device protection in a single platform. Aura’s fast, three-bureau credit monitoring alerts you to fraud up to 4x faster than the competition, as well as its easy-to-use credit lock/unlock tool. White Glove agents will help you make calls and fill out forms on your behalf to help you resolve any fraud incidents, while its $1,000,000 insurance protection can help cover any eligible losses and fees due to identity theft. Finally, Aura’s antivirus for malware protection and virtual private network (VPN) can help keep your device secure.
Aura offers former foster youth access to its platform free for 30 days, and then at a significantly reduced price. Find out more about how to take advantage of this offer here.
5. Minors, Talk To Your Legal Guardian About Resolving Any Credit Issues On Your Behalf
While minors as young as 13 can use the AnnualCreditReport.com website to order a credit report, you’ll likely need to ask a guardian for help should you need to take further action. Speak with your legal guardian or case worker about helping you to dispute any fraud, as well as to set up fraud alerts or freeze your credit. The Federal Trade Commission offers a helpful guide on how a legal guardian might do this, and TransUnion also offers an online option to resolve issues of child identity theft, here. Encourage your legal representative or court-appointed guardian, to simplify this process by sharing additional information they may request in the initial inquiry.
This includes information about a ward:
- Legal name
- Birth date
- A copy of the ward’s birth certificate
- A copy of the ward’s Social Security card
As well as information about the legal guardian:
- Proof of your legal representation or guardianship
- A copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued identity card with your current address
- A copy of a current utility bill (driver’s license and utility bill should have the same address)
Interested in more information about how you can protect yourself from a variety of digital threats? Check out Aura’s report, Protecting Consumers from Evolving Digital Threats.
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