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fwlogo withtagline 200The Foster Warrior Program might do a lot more than change lives. It could change perceptions. By helping turning foster youth and foster graduates into a new generation of Cyber Warriors and the trusted guardians of the nation, we hope we can remove some of the stigma and shame that often comes with the label foster.

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The Identity Theft Council
1990 North California Boulevard
8th Floor
Walnut Creek, CA 94582

The Identity Theft Council is a 501c3 non-profit public benefit corporation.

If you would like to donate your time, skills, or something other than money, or if you have any questions, please contact Neal O'Farrell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A Facebook Story

When you talk to teens and high school students about issues like identity theft, privacy, and online safety, chances are you’ll just be greeted with that stinging “whatever” look. And of course that’s the response we noticed when we approached our first group of Junior Counselor candidates to discuss just these issues.Neal_OFarrell_Photo_ShadowGS

But the more we talked to our students, the more we realized that if we approach these important topics in a radically different way, “whatever” quickly changed to “where do I sign up?”

So what was our secret recipe? We simply helped our students connect the dots – helped them make the connection and value between what they like to do and what we would like them to do.

Our Facebook discussions are a perfect example of how our approach worked. When we initially talked to students about the safety and security risks their Facebook use could expose them to, we got little interest or response. After all, they were practically raised on Facebook so what could we possibly know that they didn’t?

So we decided to stop talking about Facebook safety for a while and just talk about Facebook. We found, not surprisingly, that most of the students already had a Facebook page or were planning on having one very soon. When we asked them how many of them felt confident that they could create a Facebook page for someone else, most of the hands quickly went up.

But our next questions really got their attention. We asked our students if they knew that people would pay them for creating a Facebook page. Their eyes were wide open now and suddenly they figured that we really did know something about Facebook that they didn’t.

So we pressed on. Did you know, we asked them, that there are millions of small businesses, non-profits, and even schools in America that could benefit from having a social networking presence, if only they could find someone local and affordable to help guide them. Organizations that are even willing to pay for that help?

“No way,” our students said. “We can do this stuff in our sleep yet people are willing to pay us?” Now we had them hooked. Yes way, we said. And not only that, a growing number of young people have full time, high paying jobs as social media managers – getting paid to have fun doing exactly the kind of stuff you do all day for nothing?

So imagine, we said, if your participation in the Junior Counselor program might help you connect with some of these local businesses and organizations - maybe even businesses in your neighborhood. Maybe it could be a school project for you, or even a summer job. It might even lead to an internship, a full time job, and even a career…What would you think about that?

We had won them over. There was hardly a “whatever” in the house. All the hands were up and more than that, ready to sign up. We had their complete and undivided attention and they wanted to know more.

That’s when we brought them back down to earth, at least a little. We explained that while there are millions of organizations across America that would love to be able to take advantage of all the excitement and opportunity of social networking, and especially Facebook and Twitter, anyone who offers to help then establish that presence needs to also know about the security and safety issues that are involved.

That’s the bottom line, we said, at least for businesses. You can’t do social networking without including security and safety, we told them. That’s because businesses have an obligation to make their social networking safe and to protect anyone who uses their Facebook or Twitter pages.

They were nodding now. They got it. Finally they understood why boring stuff like online security and safety now needed to be important to them, if only for selfish reasons. But that’s OK. It’s a start, and a good first step towards permanently changing their attitudes to security.

This may be our secret recipe. Not only discussing security and safety in terms that students understand and relate to, but connecting something boring to something exciting, rewarding, and even fun.

Now, if we can use this new awareness to help students think about security in a whole new way, they can then became powerful advocates as they go out into the community – helping their parents create secure Facebook pages and working with local businesses to tap into the power of social networking.

Launch of the San Francisco Identity Theft Council

The Identity Theft Council (ITC), the fastest-growing, community-based identity theft victim support and education initiative, officially launched its first pilot program in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, identity fraud reached a new high in 2009, affecting 11.1 million adults. The ITC is a non-profit, grassroots organization committed to working with victims and law enforcement to help address this growing problem.

In early 2010, the pilot program was implemented in more than two dozen cities and police departments across the San Francisco Bay area including The City of Hayward, Alameda County, and Contra Costa County. The ITC is unique because it is a grassroots initiative that is implemented community by community and supported by trained counselors in those communities, as well as banks, credit unions, and law enforcement, to help identity theft victims. It takes identity theft awareness a step further by implementing peer-to-peer education at the school level, with seniors and other groups. By the end of 2010, more than 100 cities and communities across Northern California are expected to be participating in the ITC, creating a model and launch pad for other Councils to form across the country.

The Identity Theft Council was developed by Neal O'Farrell, a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and cybercrime. Intersections Inc., a leading provider of consumer and corporate identity risk management services, is a founding partner of the ITC. Other partners and supporters include ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), Elder Financial Protection Network (EFPN), and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA).

"Identity theft is an intangible crime that not everyone is equipped to handle - unfortunately, most identity theft cases end up at the bottom of the stack of police reports and more urgent local crimes take precedence. This leaves victims feeling neglected, frustrated and alone to deal with a crime that can last from several months to several years," said Neal O'Farrell, founder and executive director of the ITC. "Every victim of identity theft wants to know that as soon as they file a report, it will be acted on immediately. We launched the ITC to provide identity theft victims with a local support network they can turn to for help in recovering from this often devastating crime."

The ITC is working with consumer advocates and identity theft prevention experts to help build its educational program and to help resolve identity theft cases.

"Intersections has been a pioneer in the identity theft industry for over a decade and we've seen the damaging effects of what this growing threat can do to consumers," said Michael Stanfield, CEO and founder of Intersections Inc. "When the concept of the Identity Theft Council was first presented to us, we immediately jumped on board because we believe strongly in giving back to the community. Our mission aligns perfectly with the ITC: to help empower and protect identity theft victims through education and support."

Recently, the ITC kicked off its first Junior Counselor Program at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco's Sunset District. Through this program - that will expand to schools across the country - students will have the opportunity to learn about identity theft and participate in awareness training classes provided at their own high schools and educational facilities.

"The Identity Theft Council takes an innovative approach to tackling the problem of identity theft," said Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). "With its unique peer-to-peer education program that collaborates with schools, seniors and local organizations, this program can help protect Californians in many communities across the state."

The official launch of the ITC is being held today, October 27, at The Fort Mason Center in San Francisco at 10:30 am PT. The event will feature The Honorable Senator Mark Leno, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, the District Attorney's office, and other ITC participants and sponsors. For more information on the launch event, please visit: http://www.identitytheftcouncil.org/events?view=event

About the Identity Theft Council

Established in early 2010 in the San Francisco Bay area, the Identity Theft Council (ITC) is a non-profit, grassroots organization that provides identity theft victims with free, ongoing support and identity recovery assistance in their local communities. The Council is creating a nationwide network of local partnerships between law enforcement, the financial industry, and volunteers in local communities to provide hands-on support for victims of identity theft, help law enforcement provide a more coordinated response, and improve identity theft education and awareness community by community, across the country.

The Council was founded by security expert Neal O'Farrell with the support of local law enforcement and Intersections Inc. National partners of the Council include Intersections Inc., Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), Elder Financial Protection Network (EFPN), and ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center. For more information or to become involved in the Identity Theft Council, please visit: http://www.identitytheftcouncil.org/. Follow us on Twitter @IDTheftCouncil or visit our blog at: http://blog.identitytheftcouncil.org/.


Messages of support from around the community and across the nation:


"Much like the Better Business Bureau, the Identity Theft Council is dedicated to increasing consumer trust and raising awareness. The threat of identity theft can severely damage a consumer's trust in the businesses and organizations they work with on a daily basis. We are thrilled to see the Identity Theft Council stepping up, tackling the threat of identity theft and bringing that trust back to the marketplace."

--  Steve Cox, CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus

"The main problem for victims is the aftermath of what happened, and not necessarily just the crime itself. With Identity Theft Councils, victims now have somebody to talk to, a real voice, a real person who cares about what they're going through and can talk them through the pile of paperwork that they're going to have to fill out. It's a great victim advocacy tool."

--  Inspector Anne Madrid, Hayward Police Department, California

"Any police department that wants to be seen as progressive and responsive to their community would certainly be remiss if they didn't seize the opportunity to have something like the Identity Theft Council available for its community."

--  Chief Ron Ace, Chief of Police, Hayward, California

"Identity theft is at record levels, and the elderly are especially vulnerable. By partnering with the Identity Theft Council we can now do so much more to protect this vulnerable group."

--  Jenefer Duane, Founder, Elder Financial Protection Network

"OTA recognizes the importance of user education and awareness in conjunction with businesses providing teachable moments in preventing identity theft. We are proud to be collaborating with the Identity Theft Council's efforts to support victims and improve awareness."

--  Craig Spiezle, Executive Director and Founder of the Online Trust
Alliance

"We see the struggles of identity theft victims first hand on a daily basis. We know how hard it is for victims to find the reassurance and support they need to get through the tough times and that is why we are happy to see the work the Identity Theft Council has been doing in the San Francisco community. We are thrilled to not only be a supporter of the council but also to be a resource for the organization and the victims they are helping."

--  Anne Wallace, President, ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center

Junior Counselor Training Program

ITCSeal-Junior-CounselorThe Learning element of the Junior Counselor Training Program consists of an online course, test, and certificate.

The online course is delivered through our own Learning Management System (LMS) and is created using a mixture of text lessons, audio narration, and a self-paced Flash course professionally narrated throughout.

There are approximately twenty five lessons in the course, with a total course length of approximately 2 hours. Students are advised to take the course over time, for maximum benefit and ease of use.

Upon completion, students will be able to take an online test and earn a personalised and numbered Certificate of Completion. Students may take the test as many times as they like and at no cost.

We will also be offering separate, more comprehensive courses on social networking safety, protecting the elderly from financial abuse, and personal credit management and planning basics.

Course lessons include:

  • Exactly what is identity theft?
  • Your money, your reputation, and your future - how identity theft can impact you.
  • Understanding your credit, credit reports, and credit scores.
  • Spreading the word in your school and community.
  • Why people think we’re losing the battle against identity theft.
  • Victims tell their story.
  • The many ways you can lose your identity.
  • The basic ways you can protect your identity.
  • What is phishing and how to avoid it.
  • Staying safe online.
  • Understanding and protecting your credit.
  • Understanding credit freezes and alerts.
  • Protecting the elderly from identity theft.
  • Protecting your computer.
  • Identity theft at tax time.
  • Identity theft in the workplace.
  • Identity theft in the home.
  • Identity theft during the holidays.
  • Staying safe on social networks.
  • Understanding and avoiding banking Trojans.
  • Protecting a business from identity theft.
  • Avoiding common scams and frauds.
  • Avoiding identity theft when traveling.
  • How to respond to an identity theft.
  • Your Personal Identity Theft Checklist.

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We want to forever change the world of foster care and the world of cybersecurity is the key. The Foster Warrior program wants to give children in foster care an opportunity to pursue studies and careers in the vast arena of Cybersecurity. The goal of the program is to help these kids transform from feeling the most abandoned to being the most needed, the most valued, and the guardians of the nation. 

Not only can we provide foster children with study and career paths that we hope will lead to wonderful and fulfilling lives, we can also help solve the acute shortage of Cybersecurity professionals in the U.S., in business and in government, a shortage that is expected to last for decades. And by making Cybersecurity cool, we may also finally be able to make math and science cool too.

The program aims to provide a network of support for these kids to help them pursue studies, training, and internships that will eventually lead to full-time jobs in one of the nation's most important and fastest-growing industries. It will help to give these children the support they need at the most critical time - as they leave the foster care system into a very uncertain and often dangerous world.

And it could help fill the critical national shortage of Cybersecurity professionals in industry and government.

Kids in foster care

fosterwarriors01According to the U.S. Department of Human Services, in 2011 there were approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. At the end of 2011, 245,000 children exited foster care while another 252,000 entered foster care. An estimated 25,000 teens age out foster care each year, most with little support.

For those who leave or graduate from the foster care system, even with family support, life can continue to be a struggle. Numerous studies have shown that children raised in foster care are significantly more likely to suffer from physical and psychological problems, with very high rates of incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and suicide.

They also do poorly at school. 56% of foster children completed high school compared to 82% of the general population. According to the Casey Family Study of Foster Care Alumni, nearly a third of the homeless in the United States are former foster children. A quarter to a third of former foster children live at or below the poverty line, three times the national poverty rate.

The Foster Warrior Program

All high schoolers should be encouraged to consider careers in cybersecurity, and should be made aware of the many different study paths and career opportunities that are available to them – and they're not all programming or geek-exclusive. But of all the kids who should be encouraged and supported on this career path, perhaps foster children are the most deserving. And in some way perhaps the most suitable.

fosterwarriors02What probably defines foster kids most is their sense of abandonment. They're in foster care because they've been abandoned, and as soon as they turn 18 they're dumped out – abandoned again. If we could create a program that turns these kids into security evangelists, provides training, and even steers them towards cyber security careers, they could be the future generation of guardians for the nation. We don't just give them training. We give them a cause, a mission, a purpose, a path out of the consequences of foster care (which includes being exploited on the streets). And instead of being abandoned, they become needed.

If we focus the Foster Warrior program on the first year a foster child leaves the foster care system, we can help protect them from the most dangerous step into adult life – a step that often leads to a downward spiral of homelessness, drug addiction, mental health issues, incarceration, and exploitation.

We solve many problems with one program. We give these kids real meaning and opportunity. We can help find them jobs and career paths. We can help support and protect them during that critical first year after they age out of the foster system. And we help fill the critical national shortage in cyber security professionals.

Those who care for foster children often refer to the nurturing and caring instincts of these children, with many foster kids expressing an interest in careers in social service, criminology, and law enforcement. The Foster Warrior program can help develop these instincts, whether the participants want to protect and guide their fellow students, their school, their community, or the nation.

The Cybersecurity Skill Shortage

The United States is experiencing a critical shortage in cybersecurity professionals, in business and in government, that is expected to last for decades. This shortage not only makes business and government more vulnerable to all types of cyber threats, it is also increasing the value and prospects of job hunters in this field.

In a June 2012 public statement, Sydney Smith-Heimbrock, deputy associate director for strategic workforce planning at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management stated that "Looking at government-wide skills, we have identified cybersecurity as the No. 1 high-risk skill gap for the federal government."

That sentiment was shared by Hord Tipton, executive director of the (ISC)2 professional association "There is no quick fix for this problem. It's estimated that within the next two years, we will need about 4.5 million security professionals worldwide. Right now, we've got about 2.5 million. We need to invest heavily in training and development and bring these people on board."

The Foster Warrior program will be launched with a series of one-day cyber camps and career orientation days in sites around Silicon Valley in July and August 2013. If you'd like to participate, support, or learn more, please contact Neal O'Farrell, Executive Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We need and appreciate volunteers, internship opportunities, and as always, financial donations.

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH

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"America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity."
President Barack Obama
"Cyber security is a rapidly growing market, with 90% of employers finding it hard to fill all positions."
The Guardian Newspaper
"Cyber crime is only getting more complex and dangerous, but it is creating new jobs for people who want to fight it."
Fortune Magazine
"I would have every cybergeek in the United States who is any good at detecting hackers and intrusions come work for me."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

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