No doubt, Sony’s PlayStation Network breach has left many wondering how safe their credit card information is when it’s stored online. My 15-year-old son plays Xbox LIVE, which so far, seems safe. But I’m sure parents of kids who played on the PlayStation Network thought their data was safe, too.
So I decided to take a 3-hour tour of Xbox LIVE with my son. Who better to show me all the millions of opportunities where he can spend my money? He’s been on Xbox LIVE for two years and I was stunned by how much more is offered since I’d last taken a good look at the site.
I went through all the terms, and let me tell you, this alone can take three hours if you’re a slow reader. When you sign up—and you’re the one signing up unless your kid is 18—you’re asked for your name, the type of credit card, the number and verification code, expiration date and your ZIP code.
After the PlayStation debacle, I’m a little concerned that my credit card information is safe. A spokesperson for Xbox told me via email that “The security around our Xbox LIVE service and member information is our highest priority.”
By now almost everyone I know (and millions of people I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet) has read or heard about that its PlayStation network was hacked and that the Personal identifying Information (PII) of potentially . Then, earlier this week, . This one involved the accounts of 25 million members of Sony Online Entertainment, which hosts the popular online game EverQuest, among other diversions. That means that the PII of more than 100 million Sony customers is now twisting in the wind. And now, a law firm in Canada has against Sony for more than $1 billion in damages on behalf of nearly one million Canadians.
It is a reasonable assumption that many minors inhabited both of these Sony networks. The stolen PII included names, dates of birth, email addresses, physical addresses, user IDs and passwords and at least some credit card information. Further, children or their parents might unwittingly give up additional information (or expose their computer to malware that would turn their home network into a broadcast vehicle for their financial account numbers and passwords) to a “phisher” pretending to be a legitimate Sony representative following up on the breach. Were they to give up their Social Security number, for example, someone could do quite a bit of damage, especially given children have no reason to check credit information for many years to come. Perhaps the fact that the breach was so large, and involved kids, explains why in a week that saw mile-wide deadly and horrific tornadoes, a US president publicly releasing his birth certificate, and precious metals prices reaching all-time highs, the PlayStation breach made the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
Foster children are vulnerable to identity theft because of the transitory nature of their lives, according to a released Wednesday. They move frequently and their personal information is accessible by many people—relatives, foster parents, social workers and group home personnel.
“The Fleecing of Foster Children: How We Confiscate Their Assets and Undermine Their Financial Security” highlights the many ways we’re letting down America’s foster children and recommends to help. It was published by First Star, a national nonprofit that advocates for abused children, and the University of San Diego School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Institute.
The research brings overdue attention to a growing problem of identity theft among foster youth. At any given time, more than 460,000 children are in foster care nationwide, according to federal figures. Each year 30,000 foster children leave the system when they turn 18 years old. Many of them don’t know their identities have been stolen and their credit destroyed until they have exited care and applied for a credit card.
“Foster children have all the factors to put them at the highest risk of identity theft,” said Identity Theft 911 Chief Executive Officer Matt Cullina, a licensed foster parent who has adopted three of his foster children. “This report is a step in the right direction because it creates awareness of the problem. The second step is to analyze the size and complexity of the problem and the third is to come up with solutions. If this is happening at the numbers we’re thinking, it’s a crisis.”
Identity Theft 911 has been working with parents and children to fight child identity theft for years. Identity theft against victims who are age 19 and younger accounted for 8 percent of all identity-theft complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission in 2010, up from 7 percent the previous year.
Identity theft victims spend an average of 330 hours repairing damage to their credit caused by identity theft, according to the report. Victims average more than $3,300 in lost wages due to the theft and, on average, incur more than $850 in expenses to repair the damage to their credit.
California and Connecticut have passed legislation aimed at protecting foster youth from identity theft by ensuring that a tarnished credit record or undeserved debt is not also part of their state system exit package. But still, it is not enough.
The report recommends that Congress pass the Foster Children Self-Supporting Act, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California, and the Foster Youth Financial Security Act, proposed by Democratic Rep. James Langevin of Rhode Island.
Langevin’s legislation would help reduce identity theft risks by requiring foster care agencies to annually review the credit reports of children in their care and take steps to redress any identity theft or credit card fraud before the children age out of the system. It would also end the use of a child’s SSN as an identifier and help for older children get a driver’s license, open a bank account and apply for student loans.
In addition, the bill would provide financial literacy classes and seed money to set up Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) for foster youth so they leave care with a nest egg to pay for housing, education, and job training.
Identity Theft 911 works to protect customers and their children against child identity theft with .
“As a service provider we look forward to collaborating with government, nonprofit organizations, caregivers and foster children to address this crime,” Cullina said.