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Vital records fraud

Someone mentioned in comments here that you can get anyone’s birth certificate in California, but unless you are an “authorized person” (such as the person named on the certificate) the document is marked in large letters: “INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY.”

It wasn’t always that way. Around 1989 a Swiss immigrant walked in to a California office with the name and birth date of someone he found who was about the same age, paid a few dollars and got a birth certificate for that person. Then he took the birth certificate and applied for a drivers license. With the birth certificate and the drivers license he obtained a passport. Things went well for him until somehow the man whose identity was stolen got wind of it and filed a complaint. The New York Times reported the story in 2000.

And that is why states are careful about who they give certified copies of birth certificates to.

By the way, did you know that Hawaii was the first state in the nation to adopt a photo ID for voters? It’s true, over 20 years ago. Fraud-fighting Hawaii was one of five states in 1997 that fingerprinted drivers license applicants.

Try as I might, I have yet to find a single instance of a person obtaining a birth certificate from the State of Hawaii by fraud. (Hawaii was not a state in 1904.) The best I could do was the example in this article of a man who used faked California documents to get a US Passport while living at the time in Hawaii.

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5 Responses to Vital records fraud

  1. avatar
    Sean June 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    I bought a copy of my CA birth certificate last year and tok the opportunity to ask a few questions. The woman at the counter said there are 2 kinds of BCs. One is an official copy, and one is just informational (for genealogy etc..) The informational copy can be obtained by a family member.

  2. avatar
    Kupuna June 24, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    On behalf of my former coworkers at the Hawaii DOH, & other state offices, I say Mahalo Doc, for providing evidence that Birther fantasies about corruption here are false. How many times have we read that “anyone” can walk up to the counter at Kinau Hale & get a Hawaii birth certificate? That challenge still stands Birthers.

    And I love the new green background Doc!

  3. avatar
    Whatever4 June 24, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    Kupuna:
    On behalf of my former coworkers at the Hawaii DOH, & other state offices, I say Mahalo Doc, for providing evidence that Birther fantasies about corruption here are false. How many times have we read that “anyone” can walk up to the counter at Kinau Hale & get a Hawaii birth certificate? That challenge still stands Birthers.

    Kapuna — How can we get a hi-res image of another 1960s-era HI long form? (With the names blocked out, of course.)

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I have mixed feelings about the background. It’s topically appropriate, but it also makes the site a little less professional looking.

    The background is a lot less than you might imagine. In FireFox you can right click on it and select “View Background Image.”

    Kupuna: And I love the new green background Doc!

  5. avatar
    y_p_w June 24, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Sean:
    I bought a copy of my CA birth certificate last year and tok the opportunity to ask a few questions. The woman at the counter said there are 2 kinds of BCs. One is an official copy, and one is justinformational (for genealogy etc..)Theinformational copy can be obtained by a family member.

    I’m pretty sure the clerk was incorrect. It’s actually a broader range of people who can get the full official copy without the “INFORMATIONAL” message in large outlined block letters. Anyone off the street can order up an informational copy as long as an application can be filled out with enough information to identify the individual on the birth certificate. This is from the State of California Dept of Public Health, which only delivers birth certificates via mail these days. However, I’m pretty sure the rules are the same for county (or city) records offices that issue California birth certificates.

    Apologies if my attempts to format don’t work. I haven’t really tried it, and I sort of miss that there is no “preview” feature in these comments.

    http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/Pages/AthorizedCopyvsInformationalCopy.aspx

    Authorized Copy

    California law defines individuals who can obtain an authorized copy of a birth or death certificate as:

    The registrant (person listed on the certificate) or a parent or legal guardian of the registrant. A child, grandparent, grandchild, brother or sister, spouse, or domestic partner of the registrant.

    A party entitled to receive the record as a result of a court order, or an attorney or a licensed adoption agency seeking the birth record in order to comply with the requirements of Section 3140 or 7603 of the California Family Code.

    A member of a law enforcement agency or a representative of another governmental agency, as provided by law, who is conducting official business. (Companies representing a government agency must provide authorization from the government agency.)

    An attorney representing the registrant or the registrant’s estate, or any person or agency empowered by statute or appointed by a court to act on behalf of the registrant or the registrant’s estate. (If you are requesting a Certified Copy under a power of attorney, please include a copy of the power of attorney with the application form.)

    Any agent or employee of a funeral establishment who acts within the course and scope of his or her employment and who orders certified copies of a death certificate on behalf of an individual specified in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of Section 7100 of the Health and Safety Code.

    Informational Copy

    If you cannot obtain an authorized copy under California law, you can obtain an informational copy. An informational copy contains the same information as an authorized copy, but will have a legend across the face with the statement “INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY.” Authorized and informational copies are both “certified copies.”

    Marin County seems to have more detailed information on why it’s more difficult to obtain a full certified birth certificate copy.

    http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/AR/main/birthchanges.cfm

    Due to the increased occurrence of identity theft, new laws were passed to make it more difficult for someone to order a vital record with the intent of stealing personal information. These laws became effective on July 1, 2003, significantly changing the steps necessary to obtain a birth or death record. With the passage of AB130 in 2009, these restrictions have been extended to marriage records effective January 1, 2010.