PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Dee Saint Franc left the Rhode Island foster care system eager to start life on her own. But when she tried sign up for cable and Internet at Verizon, she learned that breaking free from her past wouldn't be easy.A customer service representative told Saint Franc that someone had used her identity to rack up $3,000 worth of delinquent bills dating back to 1998.
"I was like, '$3,000? I just turned 18,'" recalled Saint Franc, now 21 and going to college in Providence. "It didn't make any sense. I was 8 years old in 1998."
Saint Franc is one of a disturbingly high number of children who leave foster care only to find that someone has stolen their identity to open credit accounts, take out loans or pay bills, authorities say. Studies show that foster children face higher rates of identity theft than other children or even adults.
A provision in a new federal law requires states to run credit checks on older foster children and help resolve cases of identity theft so they can enter adulthood without the burden of someone else's debt or the stain of bad credit.
Children, and particularly foster children, make great targets for identity thieves, child welfare officials and researchers say. Too young to take out a loan or credit card, they have Social Security numbers that are a clean slate, ripe for exploitation. Children aren't likely to realize their identity has been stolen until they grow up and apply for credit.
And too often, foster children come from struggling, troubled families where a relative might see a child's Social Security number as a way to keep the lights on, put food on the table or feed an addiction.
One researcher estimates that as many as 30 percent of foster children may be the victims of identity theft, based on reviews of the credit reports of foster children. FULL STORY