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I'm a caseworker for a youth in foster care. What should I do if there is an error on a credit report or evidence of identity theft for a youth in foster care?

There are a few steps you can take:

  1. Review the credit report with the youth and verify whether he or she recognizes the items on his or her credit report.
  2. Check with your own agency for the name and contact information of your designated point of contact at the credit reporting company and what the specific dispute process is for that bureau.
  3. To dispute an item on a youth's credit report that is incorrect, the credit reporting company may require the following documents:
  • A cover letter addressed to the credit bureau containing:
    • The personal identification information of the youth
    • A brief summary of the dispute, including an explanation of the error and, if the error pertains to an account in the name of the youth (such as a cell phone), any documentation of the error (such as a bill or receipt that provides evidence of payment)
    • Contact information for the person at the state agency where results should be sent
  • You may also be asked to provide supporting documents, such as:

Check with your agency or the bureau to verify which documents are required.

  • Ensure the error has been removed by requesting confirmation from the credit reporting company or pulling a new credit report for the youth.

If the error pertains to an account in the name of the youth, it may also be worthwhile to send a letter and all of the above documentation to the company that reported the item (such as the cell phone company) and request that they correct the error and send you a letter stating that the error has been corrected.

If you suspect that the youth has been or will be a victim of identity theft —for example, an account or loan has been opened in the youth's name— you can request that the credit reporting company place a one year fraud alert in the youth's file. Fraud alerts require creditors to verify an identity before granting credit, making it harder for a thief to open fraudulent new accounts.

You can also request a seven year fraud alert if you submit an identity theft report to demonstrate that an identity theft has occurred. To create an identity theft report, follow the FTC's instructions at  The young person does not have to file a police report. 

You can also request a security freeze, also known as a credit freeze, which stops creditors from getting your credit report until you lift the freeze Under federal law effective September 21, 2018, you may freeze and unfreeze your credit record for free at the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian TransUnion , and Equifax .

This law also provides protections related to credit records and identity theft for “protected consumers” under the age of 16 and incapacitated persons or persons for whom a guardian has been appointed. Persons with authority to act for these protected consumers can request a security freeze.

Tip: You may want to check your state attorney general's website  to see if it has any information about protections for youth in your state.