A birth certificate is a vital piece of identification and, in the wrong hands, can be used for identity fraud. If your birth certificate, or that of your child, has been stolen, you can report the theft to the bureau of vital statistics in the state where it was issued.
Why Birth Certificates Are Important
A birth certificate is your most important piece of identity. It is used to prove your name and date of birth, as well as your birthplace. In many cases, photo ID is required to prove your identity, but it's your birth certificate that is often used to get photo IDs, like driver's licenses. You need it to apply for a passport, government benefits, pensions and insurance benefits. It's also used to join the military and to enroll in school.
Fortunately, proving your identity usually involves security measures in addition to simply showing a birth certificate, but if a thief has your birth certificate along with other pieces of personal information, it can be used to steal your identity.
What to Do if Your Birth Certificate Is Stolen
If your birth certificate is stolen, contact the bureau of vital statistics where you were born, which is usually a department of your state government. This officially reports the theft, and you can have a replacement birth certificate issued to you. You may also report the theft of a birth certificate to the local police where it was stolen, in addition to any other items that may also have been taken, like IDs or credit cards.
Protect Against Identity Theft
Identity theft is a concern whenever a piece of identification, such as a birth certificate, is stolen. You can get free copies of your credit reports online at various websites, such as annualcreditreport.com. Examine your reports for any unusual activity, especially credit accounts that may have been opened in your name that you did not apply for. If you do see suspicious activity, contact the credit bureaus and the company that opened the fraudulent account to let them know you have been the victim of identity theft. Additional instructions are provided by the federal government at identitytheft.gov.
Also consider contacting each of the three credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Active for 90 days, a fraud alert makes it difficult for someone to open a new credit account, such as for a credit card or cell phone, in your name because the company they are trying to scam will not be able to access your credit report. Alternatively, you can place a credit freeze on your credit reports. This prevents unauthorized access of your reports until you lift the freeze, and if you need to apply for credit yourself, you can remove it any time.