Dangers of a Stolen Birth Certificate: How To Protect Yourself

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Sofia Kaufman

Chief People Officer at Aura

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    How Bad Is a Missing or Stolen Birth Certificate?

    An Ohio resident found out the hard way what can happen if you give scammers your birth certificate [*].

    After receiving an automated message claiming he was under investigation by the Social Security administration for money laundering, the victim sent the caller an email including photos of his birth certificate and Social Security card.    

    It wasn’t until after sending the information that the victim realized he’d handed over everything a scammer needed to steal his identity. 

    Most of us don’t protect our birth certificates in the same way that we look after our passport or Social Security card. But scammers can use stolen birth certificates to obtain other forms of ID, open bank accounts in your name, or apply for fraudulent benefits. 

    If you think — or know — that someone has your birth certificate, you need to act quickly. In this guide, we’ll explain what fraudsters can do with your birth certificate, how to tell if someone is using it, and what to do if you become the victim of birth certificate fraud. 

    Why Would Scammers Want Your Birth Certificate? 

    Your birth certificate holds more than your birth record. It reveals your full name, your place of birth, the names of your parents (perhaps even your mother’s maiden name), and, of course, your date of birth.

    Together, these pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) give scammers more than enough data to steal your identity

    But that’s not even the biggest risk of a missing or stolen birth certificate.

    Legally, your birth certificate can be used as an identifying document when applying for public assistance or pension benefits, gaining employment, applying for a driver’s license or passport, obtaining a Social Security card, and more.  

    Fraudsters know your birth certificate is a valuable document that can fuel their schemes. But how do they get it in the first place? 

    Here are the main ways that your birth certificate can end up in the wrong hands:

    • Bad actors steal or find physical copies of certified birth certificates. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the vast majority of cases involve “genuine birth certificates held by impostors.” [*]
    • Criminals buy leaked birth certificate images after a data breach (or purchase physical certificates) on the Dark Web.
    The cost of a stolen U.S. birth certificate on the Dark Web. Source: Safety Detectives
    • You fall prey to fake websites that claim to send you a certified copy of your birth certificate (but instead steal your sensitive information).
    • Using a stolen ID, a criminal requests a legitimate copy of your birth certificate from a state agency.
    Take action: If scammers have your birth certificate, your bank account and identity could be at risk. Try Aura’s top-rated identity theft protection free for 14 days to safeguard your accounts and sensitive information from scammers.

    Can Someone Steal Your Identity With Your Birth Certificate?

    Yes. Identity theft is the main risk associated with a stolen or missing birth certificate.

    Many people don’t realize how many legal and financial actions start with a proof of identity via a birth certificate. Scammers are especially interested in stolen birth certificates for these reasons:

    • Your birth certificate provides proof of citizenship. Scammers can use a copy of a birth certificate to commit job fraud or employment identity theft.
    • The official document doesn’t feature a photo. This makes your birth certificate an  ideal form of supporting documentation to initiate other types of document fraud.
    • A birth certificate can be used to apply for other identification documents. Government agencies accept birth certificates when you apply for a Social Security card, driver’s license, or passport.
    • A birth certificate can be used when opening financial accounts. Scammers can open accounts in your name and then use them to launder money or take on debts that you’ll be stuck owing.
    • Scammers can use a legitimate birth certificate to create a fraudulent one. Both real and fake birth certificates can be sold for hundreds of dollars on the Dark Web.

    💡 Related: How To Know if Your Identity Has Been Stolen → 

    What Can Someone Do With Your Birth Certificate? 7 Risks

    1. Get a passport or other photo ID in your name
    2. Use it to access your online accounts
    3. Gain access to your bank and other financial accounts
    4. Create fake online profiles to scam your friends and family
    5. Mine for more information about you on the Dark Web
    6. Apply for government benefits in your name
    7. Commit child identity theft

    Once your birth certificate falls into the wrong hands, how exactly does a con artist use it to wreak further havoc on your life? Here are a few examples in detail. 

    1. Get a passport or other photo ID in your name

    According to the U.S. Department of State, fraudulently obtained birth certificates are almost always behind passport and ID fraud [*]. 

    Here’s how this insidious scam works:

    • Criminals use a stolen birth certificate as a so-called “breeder document” — i.e., a document that can be used as a means to fraudulently obtain other sensitive documents and materials. 
    • First, they use your birth certificate to apply for a driver’s license
    • Then, they use the fraudulently obtained driver’s license and birth certificate to apply for a U.S. passport.

    Just like that, fraudsters can use your vital information to act as a U.S. citizen with an identity that’s not connected to who they really are.

    2. Use it to access your online accounts

    Your birth certificate can offer an entry point into password-protected accounts because it contains information that often comes up in security questions, such as your mother’s maiden name. 

    If criminals use that information to hack your email account, they’ll search for sensitive information or initiate a password change request for your online bank or social media accounts — and then have the verification codes sent to an account to which they’ve already gained access. 

    💡 Related: How To Protect Yourself From Account Takeover Fraud → 

    3. Gain access to your bank and other financial accounts

    Since birth certificates constitute proof of identity, financial institutions routinely accept them as proof of account ownership. A stolen birth certificate can give fraudsters access to your accounts or allow them to apply for new accounts, loans, and credit cards in your name. 

    In many cases, someone who has obtained your birth certificate might also have other important documents that belong to you. For example, if your information was stolen through a data breach, a full package of your sensitive data could be bought and sold by internet criminals on the Dark Web.

    4. Create fake online profiles to scam your friends and family

    As scammers continue to use your stolen birth certificate, they’ll move from scamming you to targeting your friends and family. 

    Scammers reach out to people you know by creating fake online accounts that look like they belong to you. If these accounts seem convincing, your family and close acquaintances will have no reason to believe that you’re not the one sending the messages. 

    Then, the scammer can invent a sob story or a fake situation that compels your contacts to send money that will end up in the criminal’s pocket. 

    In this day and age, scammers aren’t as sloppy as people expect. They use skillful social engineering tactics to keep their targets from getting suspicious.

    5. Mine for more information about you on the Dark Web

    With the information on your birth certificate, scammers can search the Dark Web for more sensitive information — including your credit card numbers, online passwords, and Social Security number (SSN).

    Unfortunately, few people know whether their personal information is for sale on the Dark Web. That’s where a free Dark Web scanner can be very useful. Aura’s free leaked password scanner checks known Dark Web forums and marketplaces, as well as recent data breaches, to see if any of your information has been leaked.  

    Aura's free Dark Web scanner

    6. Apply for government benefits in your name

    Your birth certificate is the ideal supporting document for collecting benefits.

    Whoever steals your birth certificate can use it to commit tax fraud, healthcare fraud, or collect government benefits on your behalf. To make matters worse, most victims of these types of fraud don’t realize it’s happening until thieves have inflicted significant damage.

    💡 Related: How To Know If You’re a Victim of Medical Identity Theft

    7. Commit child identity theft

    Child identity theft is often more alluring to scammers than stealing an adult’s identity. 

    Since children don’t have credit histories, and family members usually aren’t monitoring their kids’ information for suspicious activity, any fraud committed against children will probably go unnoticed until they turn 18.

    For identity thieves, a child’s identity is a blank slate. Once they get ahold of your child’s birth certificate and keep digging, they’ll have enough to carry out any number of fraudulent activities in your child’s name.

    How To Tell If Someone Is Using Your Birth Certificate

    Don’t assume that you’ll notice immediately if someone starts using your personal information. Instead, stay vigilant and learn how to detect fraud at its earliest stages.

    Here are some of the major warning signs that you’re a victim of identity theft or other fraud:

    • New credit inquiries you didn’t request, or accounts you didn’t open, appear on your credit report.
    • You receive mail from financial institutions about applications for new accounts or loans that you never requested.
    • You stop receiving mail that you normally receive on a regular basis.
    • You notice suspicious activity or charges you don’t recognize on your credit card or bank statements.
    • The physical copy of your birth certificate goes missing.
    • You find that you’re locked out of some of your online accounts.
    • You start getting a sudden influx of unwanted spam calls, emails, and text messages.
    • You are unable to collect benefits or make successful insurance claims.
    • You get tax documents from unfamiliar employers, or you receive a notification from the IRS that your taxes have already been filed.

    What To Do If Your Birth Certificate Is Missing or Stolen

    If you lose your birth certificate, you need to act quickly to secure your accounts and private information. Follow these steps before requesting a new birth certificate to limit the damage scammers can do.

    Look for warning signs of identity theft

    Use the bullet points above as a checklist. Have one or more of these incidents happened to you since losing track of your birth certificate? 

    Remember that checking your credit report is a vital part of any search for warning signs.

    You’re entitled to a free credit report each year at AnnualCreditReport.com — one from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). Now is the time to take advantage of this service.

    Report the loss to your state’s Vital Records Office

    Since birth certificate fraud is so difficult to detect, unreported incidents allow more of these crimes to remain hidden. 

    Use this online tool to find your local vital statistics or records office and report your missing birth certificate. 

    File an identity theft report with the FTC

    Because your birth certificate is such an important document, your risk of identity theft is high. 

    As soon as you realize your birth certificate is missing, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov. The FTC will provide you with a recovery plan and a report that you can use to dispute fraud and prove that you’re the victim of identity theft. 

    Contact local law enforcement

    Filing a police report with your local law enforcement agency is an important step to take after you’ve been the victim of identity fraud, as a police report can help you dispute any criminal activity that fraudsters commit under your name. Bring a copy of your FTC report, as well as any other supporting documents, to your local police station and explain what happened to an officer. 

    Monitor your credit report for signs of fraud

    Scammers are almost always financially motivated. Your credit report is one of the first places that you’ll see signs that a scammer has used your stolen birth certificate to commit financial fraud against you. 

    Request your free credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and look for suspicious activity. For added security, consider signing up for an identity theft protection service with three-bureau credit monitoring. 

    Aura fraud alerts

    Aura constantly monitors your credit file, bank accounts, investment accounts, and credit cards for signs of fraud. And because Aura has a direct connection to the credit bureaus, you’ll find out about fraud up to 4X faster than other services. Try Aura free for 14 days and see if it’s right for you.

    Freeze or lock your credit

    A credit lock or freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit file — which makes it almost impossible for scammers to take out new lines of credit or open new accounts in your name. 

    If someone with criminal intent has access to your birth certificate, they won’t be able to get to your accounts — if you get there first.

    Secure your online accounts and change your passwords

    Any time your identity is at risk, your online accounts need an immediate security boost. 

    Change the passwords on all of your online accounts and make them as strong as possible. Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever you can, and use a password manager to create and store unique, secure passwords. 

    Consider signing up for identity theft protection

    Identity theft can start small but grow quickly. If your birth certificate has been stolen, it can lead to ongoing damage to your finances and reputation. Even worse, if your birth certificate was put up for sale on the Dark Web, you could face ongoing instances of identity theft. 

    An identity theft protection service like Aura monitors your sensitive information and proactively safeguards you from scammers. 

    With Aura, you get: 

    • Top-rated identity theft protection. Aura monitors your most sensitive information — including your SSN, driver’s license, passport, and more — for signs of fraud. 
    • Three-bureau credit monitoring with 4X faster fraud alerts. You’ll be alerted in near real-time about any changes to your credit file, including changes to your credit score, new inquiries, or new accounts.
    • Protection from hackers with antivirus software, virtual private network (VPN), password manager, and more. Aura helps prevent scammers from getting your personal information in the first place; all Aura plans include an easy-to-use suite of proactive online security tools. 
    • 24/7 access to fraud resolution specialists. With Aura, you’ll never have to go through identity theft or fraud alone. Our team of U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists are always available via phone or email. 
    • $1 million in identity theft insurance. If the worst should happen, every adult member on an Aura plan is covered for up to $1 million in eligible losses due to identity theft.  
    • Protection for your entire family. Aura’s family plans cover up to five adults and unlimited children, even in different households. This means that you can protect your children, elderly parents, or other family members all with one plan. 
    Take action: Keep yourself and your family safe from the dangers of identity theft. Try Aura free for 14 days and enjoy peace of mind whenever you work, connect, bank, or shop online.

    How To Get a Replacement Copy of Your Birth Certificate

    Once you’ve secured your accounts and reported the incident to authorities, it’s time to replace your missing birth certificate.

    Here’s how to get a new birth certificate:

    • First, you’ll need alternative proof of identity — preferably a photo ID, such as your driver’s license or passport. You should also collect the details found on your original birth certificate, such as your birthplace and the names of your parents (including your mother’s maiden name). You may need to request your parent’s marriage license or certificate.
    • Next, find your local vital records office. You can request a replacement birth certificate in person or via mail. It’s best to check the specific requirements listed by your state’s vital records office, and call if you have any questions.
    • You’ll be asked to fill out a replacement birth certificate form, complete a notarized sworn statement, and pay a small fee.

    Your state vital records office is the best place to get a replacement birth certificate. While there are online services that claim they can get you a replacement faster, they almost always charge more than the actual cost. Even worse, some of these are phishing sites designed to steal your sensitive information.

    If you have any doubts that you may not be dealing with a legitimate company, research them via the Better Business Bureau (BBB).  

    Don’t Get Burned By Birth Certificate Scammers

    As long as criminals stand to gain from stealing sensitive documents like birth certificates, they’ll continue to invade the privacy of countless unsuspecting targets. Don’t leave your digital security, identity, and finances open to fraudsters. 

    For comprehensive online protection — including 24/7 monitoring, near real-time fraud alerts, and $1 million in identity theft insurance — consider signing up for Aura. 

    Ready for ironclad digital security? Try Aura free for 14 days

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers