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Identity Theft

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Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to access your bank account or opens a new account. Foster youth are especially vulnerable to identity theft because so many adults may have had access to sensitive information, like social security numbers.

Most of the time, a stolen credit card number isn’t a huge problem. You call your credit card company, they remove the charges, and you get a new card. But identity theft can be more than a minor inconvenience. If someone drains your bank account, you won’t be able to pay your bills on time. If someone damages your credit score, you can have a hard time opening a bank account or renting an apartment. So what steps can you take to prevent identity theft and what can you do if you’re a victim?

First, try to prevent identity theft:

  • Keep important documents like your Social Security Card and your birth certificate in a safe place. Make sure you don’t leave them behind when you move.
  • Shred (or at least tear up) credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, medical bills, checks, bank statements, and expired credit cards.
  • Don’t just throw checks away after you’ve deposited them. Tear them up. Write VOID across the front.
  • Don’t ever give someone your bank card or PIN.
  • Read your credit card and bank statements carefully. Often scammers will make a small purchase before they make big purchases.
  • Before you get rid of a cell phone, delete information permanently. Remove SIM card. Delete contacts from the phone book, lists of calls made and received, voicemails, messages sent and received, folders, web search history, and photos.
  • Keep passwords private.
  • Make sure your computer and cellphone are password protected.

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, there are many things you need to do.

  • First, call the companies where you know fraud occurred. You might need to call your credit card company to cancel your credit cards and get new ones, or close your bank account and open a new one. If you have any bills (like your phone bill) that are automatically charged to your bank account, make sure you update them with your new banking information
  • Report identity theft to the FTC.
  • File a police report with your local police department.

Check your credit report. You are entitled to get one free report a year from It can be hard for foster youth to check their credit report, because to confirm your identity, you often have to answer questions about address you’ve lived at and jobs you’ve had. Work with your social worker to apply for your credit report.

For more information:

NBC news story about why foster youth are more vulnerable to identity theft



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