Our identity theft experts went back to school to teach foster children about the many ways their personal information can be used by criminals.
During the three-day course, we taught 30 ninth-graders about different forms of identity theft, why young people are prime targets, and how they can protect themselves and their credit.
The course was part of the First Star UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Summer Academy, founded by First Star, Inc
., a charity that works to improve the lives of neglected children.
Foster kids are 20 percent less likely to graduate from college, and they’re more vulnerable to identity theft because of the transitory nature of their lives. They move a lot and their personal information is accessible by many people.
On the sprawling UCLA campus in Westwood, Calif., the children practiced tai chi in the morning, brushed up on their math and writing in the afternoon, and even learned how to make healthy meals from chefs sent by Mario Batali. They also listened to guest speakers, including L.A. Kings left winger Luc Robitaille.
When it came time to learn about identity theft risks for their age group—especially when online for social networks and gaming—we thought they’d be tired out from all the excitement.
We couldn’t have been more wrong.
They tackled our identity theft whodunit—using characters from the “Twilight” movie—and excelled in our exercise modeled after “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” TV show.
They eagerly took in all our tips, especially after learning the hard facts about child identity theft:
- 140,000 minors per year are victims of identity theft
- 43 percent of child identity theft happens when the victim is between the ages of 15 and 17
- A minor is 51 times more likely than an adult to have his identity stolen
When the program ended and it came time to watch the ninth-graders walk through the academy’s graduation ceremony, we were touched when they shared their joy with group hugs.
Our team—which included Matt Cullina, CEO; Victor Searcy, director of fraud operations; Brett Montgomery, fraud operations team leader; and Mark Fullbright, senior fraud investigator—participated in the First Star Academy
to make a difference in the lives of these young people.
But we were pleasantly surprised to find that the kids made a difference in ours.