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Experts: Michigan's Foster Children Vulnerable to ID Theft

Identity theft can be a roadblock on the path to adulthood for foster children. Credit: Nikk/Flickr
Identity theft can be a roadblock on the path to adulthood for foster children. Credit: Nikk/Flickr
October 19, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – Identity thieves don't discriminate when it comes to the age of their victims, and experts say foster children are a prime target for fraud.

Angelique Day, who works with former foster youths at Wayne State University, says as foster children make their way through the child welfare system, many people have access to their personal information.

She says ID theft can be a roadblock on the path to adulthood.

"Young people who are transitioning from foster care to college were struggling to be able to obtain a rental housing agreement because of this identity theft and had restrictions on their financial aid because of poor credit," she explains.

Day is a member of the National Association of Social Workers in Michigan, which supports House Bill 4022. It would require Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services to perform an annual credit check on all foster children. The measure recently passed out of committee.

The Department of Health and Human Services says it doesn't have the resources to expand background checks for foster children. But Day contends recovering from identity theft itself is a time consuming and costly endeavor, and it's critical to discover fraud before it's too late.

"If there is anything on their credit report that shows that any purchases were made prior to the age of 18, our hope is that the state can bring it to the attention of the crediting authorities and to have those records expunged," she states.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were more than 12,000 ID theft complaints involving youths up to age 19 in 2014.

HB 4022 keeps the credit checks for children ages 14 and up. But Day says some children as young as ages 6 years old have become victims.

"Identity checks don't have to occur by state policy until a young person has been in care on or after age 14,” she explains. “And we know that if we're actually going to address the credit problem, the sooner you find out, the better."

The Department of Health and Human Services testified that about two problems are discovered every month in credit checks run on foster children ages 14 to 18.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI