By Guy Page
A 2017 law to stop illegal use of Vermont birth certificates by identity thieves and human traffickers took effect Monday, July 1. Certified copies Vermont birth and death certificates will only be provided to family or court-appointed representatives.
“The law, which was passed by the Vermont legislature in 2017, also streamlines the process to create, store, issue and track birth and death certificates through a new electronic Statewide Vital Records System,” the Vermont State Department of Health said in a July 1 press release.
Black market certified copies of Vermont birth certificates were worth as much as $20,000 in 2015, a January, 2015 Vermont Dept. of Health report told the Vermont Legislature:
“It has become increasingly important that Vermont consider taking steps to address these concerns as the black market value of legitimate certificates and their certified copies has continued to rise. In 2003/2004, the reported average value of a modified or an unused birth certificate was approximately $2,000. By 2010, that had risen to $10,000. Today, the average is now $15,000 – $20,000 depending on the characteristics of the person on the certificate (age, name) and whether it is a new identity (never used) or one that is already in use. At these values, Vermont becomes an increasingly attractive target.”
Human traffickers, including illegal immigration rings, have targeted Vermont as a relatively easy place to obtain a genuine birth certificate, the DOH report said:
“Persons and organizations that routinely utilize birth and death certificates of other people include identity theft criminals, drug and human traffickers, fugitives and child support evaders. From the perspective of federal and other law enforcement agencies, there is no debate whether valid certified copies of birth and death certificates are stolen, counterfeited and/or sold, thereby allowing someone to adopt another person’s identity.
“As early as ten years ago (2003), the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) reported seizing 2,000 birth certificates each month from people whose citizenship claims were determined to be false. The U.S. Department of State calculated a similar rate for birth certificates used in passport fraud. An important, though somewhat outdated, report was issued by the U.S. Office of the Inspector General on the growing issue of birth certificate fraud. The report (Sept. 2000) found that, between 85-90 percent of birth certificate fraud encountered by the Immigration and Naturalization Services and Passport Staff is the result of genuine birth certificates held by imposters – the most difficult fraud to detect.”
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.