For many of us, getting our first job as a teen was a rite of passage into adulthood and a step towards independence. Even if the job was scooping ice cream or folding clothes at a store, a job was a job and we were happy to have some extra cash in our pockets.
But for 17-year-old Kevin,* this momentous milestone quickly turned into a shocking nightmare. When Kevin landed his first job, his foster mom suggested they go to the bank and open a savings account for him.
However, the bank denied Kevin’s application, as he had check fraud under his name. When provided with a copy of the fraudulent check, Kevin recognized the endorsement signature; it was his biological mother’s handwriting.
Betrayed, dismayed, and in disarray, Kevin and his foster mom drove home in silence as the reality sank in. How would they clear Kevin’s name?
The Orange County Social Services Department referred Kevin’s case to Renato Izquieta, Supervising Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County (LASOC). “Unfortunately, Kevin’s situation is not uncommon,” explains Izquieta. “Children, especially foster youth, are especially vulnerable to identity theft because their personal data is often clean and the crime is not discovered for many years.”
For foster youth, their personal information is often passed through many hands, providing more opportunities for the crime to occur. In some cases, as with Kevin, the culprit can be a family member, which further complicates the situation.
Izquieta is working on absolving Kevin’s name to allow him to gain a fresh start and continue on his path to becoming an independent adult. Thankfully, in Kevin’s situation, the check fraud was discovered early on and Kevin has the support of his foster mom, his social worker, and LASOC.
Other foster youth are sometimes not as lucky, as newly emancipated foster youth often face the unnerving task of dealing with identity theft on their own. Please consider making a donation to our organization so we can continue to provide free legal aid services to foster children like Kevin.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.