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March 1, 2007 5:31 PM   Subscribe

A birth certificate has gone missing in public. What now?

Today, my girlfriend and I went out to get her learner's permit, and among the forms of identification she brought was her birth certificate. We had to make a couple stops on our way to the department of licensing, and we were walking with it on us for a time. Somewhere along the way, we lost her birth certificate. After hours searching where we had been and the car itself, the document is still lost.

She passed muster for identification without it, but we're concerned about her birth certificate floating around out there. Assuming that someone did pick it up, how shall we protect her from identity theft and fraud? We want to circle the wagons in a hurry, but are at a loss as to how.

Any advice is very much appreciated.
posted by EatTheWeak to Law & Government (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Um, do nothing?

Anyone can request your birth certificate from the local authorities, and provide very minimal documentation to do so. It's not a security document of any sort.

Indeed the usual way to establish a new identity is to find a child that died young, request their birth certificate, and build an identity from there, as if that child had not died.
posted by jellicle at 5:39 PM on March 1, 2007


Unfortunately, you can't do much of anything. One can generally get a birth certificate very easily. The SSN is really what you have to worry about. You could get a credit monitoring service to watch your back for you. A bit costly, but useful if you are really unsure.
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:40 PM on March 1, 2007


Above have given their opinions on whether or not you should protect her identity.

I don't have an opinion as to whether you should, but if you want to go ahead and do something just call one of the "big three" - equifax, experian or trans union. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your file (call one, and they'll contact the other two and have it added across the board, or you can call all three if you wish).

It's a royal pain in the butt (I know from experience), but it's the best first step to take. Also check their websites (just add the .com) for more comprehensive lists of what you should or could do.
posted by devbrain at 5:46 PM on March 1, 2007


Identity thieves steal your information. They don't "find" it. It's not a crime of opportunity. Even if you had dropped an envelope with your girlfriend's name, date of birth, Social Security number, and primary care physician, the odds that it would be picked up by somebody with the means and motive to manipulate that information are statistically insignificant.

By all means, initiate a fraud alert if it makes you feel better. But if anyone even realizes what that piece of paper is, it's improbable that their reaction will be, "How fortunate! Now that I've found this birth certificate lying on the ground, I can fulfill my dream of becoming an identity thief!!"
posted by cribcage at 5:49 PM on March 1, 2007 [9 favorites]


If you think your identity has been stolen, here's what to do. She can also order another copy of her birth certificate (with minimum identification as said above) from your state's department of vital records.
posted by ND¢ at 6:30 PM on March 1, 2007


Anyone can request your birth certificate from the local authorities, and provide very minimal documentation to do so. It's not a security document of any sort.

You might be confusing birth certificates with public birth records. Anyone can walk into a county courthouse and get records of babies born by name, year, etc.

Mostly, though, to get an actual copy of a birth certificate, you have to be able to prove via valid government ID that you were the named baby, or that you are one of the named parents... or that those people have died and that you are a relation with a valid reason for needing it... and make a written notarized request. (The nuances vary state by state, but those are the common standards)

And, since it's a document that proves US citizenship, and is now required in order to get a passport, I'm not sure I would say a BC isn't a security document of any sort. It's not like the OP dropped a credit card, but I think there is a valid reason for minimal concern.
posted by pineapple at 6:57 PM on March 1, 2007


How fortunate! Now that I've found this birth certificate lying on the ground, I can fulfill my dream of becoming an identity thief!!" that shady guy in my social studies 10 class, who's 3 years older than us, said he'd give $20 for someone's credit card or someone's driver's licence, I wonder how much he'd give for a birth cert?"

/personal experience
posted by porpoise at 8:53 PM on March 1, 2007


Mostly, though, to get an actual copy of a birth certificate, you have to be able to prove via valid government ID that you were the named baby, or that you are one of the named parents... or that those people have died and that you are a relation with a valid reason for needing it... and make a written notarized request. (The nuances vary state by state, but those are the common standards)

Pineapple: in New Jersey, which is otherwise the sort of state that will drive you mad with ID requirements, all I had to do to get a dupe of my birth certificate was send a letter requesting it. No notary, no proof of anything. It cost $4.
posted by bcwinters at 6:50 AM on March 2, 2007


I remember hearing that you can report it to the police and then run an ad explaining/warning that should the id of ms blah blah be used in fraudulent activities, the innocent party, ms blah blah shall not be held accountable for any debt/s racked up in her name. Can't remember the source so maybe look into whether that would actually cover your ass. Ran it by S.O. who said something about Visa and the like having lists that are updated monthly and sent out to stores. These are lists of cards not to accept as any debts incurred are certainly not going to be honoured, too bad you were warned. Not the same I know but maybe they also have a section for not giving the cards to certain id to begin with. You shouldn't worry overly though and double check your home just in case :-)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 5:40 AM on March 5, 2007


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