Foster children who statistically face a greater risk of identity theft than adults or other children may be protected from having their identities stolen or exploited, under a new law, proposed by a Rhode Island congressman.
Studies show that identity theft is often done by the child's biological parents.
The new federal law, co-sponsored by United States Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, includes a requirement that states run credit checks on older foster children to protect them from identity theft, something child welfare advocates say is a troubling trend.
The law also directs child welfare officials to resolve cases of identity theft so foster children can enter adulthood with a clean slate.
These children are already behind the eight ball, said Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat.
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.
They're already dealing with psychological and emotional problems because of abuse and neglect. It's outrageous that they would be further victimized by identity theft and find out about it just when they're trying to establish themselves with a car loan, apartment or job.
Children, and particularly foster children, make great targets for identity thieves, child welfare officials and researchers say.
One researcher estimated 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.
Overall, children are more likely than adults to be targeted for identity theft, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.
The researchers worked with an identity protection company to comb through records of 42,000 children and found more than 10 percent showed signs of identity theft.
And about four percent of adults are victims of identity theft, according to federal estimates.
President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law Sept. 30. Langevin said he'd like to build on the law in the future by requiring annual credit checks for all foster children, regardless of their age.
States including California, Colorado and Connecticut have passed laws mandating credit checks for foster children before they leave state custody.