07 March 2010

New Birth Certificates Wont Curb Identity Theft

IF you are a Puerto Rican living on the island, or living in the states, your birth certificate wont be valid.

This past December Puerto Rico's legislature passed a new law that invalidates as of July 1 all previously issued Puerto Rican birth certificates. The action comes after raids in March of 2009 exposing a criminal ring which had stolen birth certificates and other identifying documents from several different schools in Puerto Rico.

Kenneth McClintock Hernandez, the commonwealth's secretary of state says Puerto Ricans on average get about 20 copies of their birth certificates over their lifetimes because originals are required for enrolling children in school or sports and other community activities. Schools and other institutions have typically kept copies, a practice prohibited under the new law since January, McClintock said.

The State Department says as much as 40 percent of the identity fraud in the U.S. involves birth certificates from Puerto Rico.

The new law does not address, however, the thousands of children born in the states who are being raised on the island. I have 5 children who's original birth certificates and copies of social security numbers are held in primary and secondary schools in three cities. Since we lived in an area between two cities, the children attended two primary schools in two different cities and were separated in two high schools to meet their individual career interests. What will happen to my children as they turn 18, apply for jobs, or apply for credit?

Recently a friends son applied for the armed services. He was denied because he was told his birth certificate was invalid. Apparently someone had stolen his identity as a child. The person subsequently died and now my friends son couldn't register. It took time to get it all sorted out, and the military had interest in sorting it out because they need recruits. How much time and effort is the car dealership, bank or universities going to take to fix a problem that isn't theirs when a child who has had his or her identity stolen becomes of legal age?

Reprinting of birth certificates wont stop identity thieves from gaining access to the new certificates either. I can imagine that the persons holding the originals are submitting them today, in order to receive a new false identity document. For those who have already had their identities stolen, getting a new birth certificate wont fix the damaged credit or other issues either.

1 comment:

SecretaryMcClintock said...

While our law won't eliminate absolutely all PR birth certificate fraud, it will reduce it dramatically. Come June 30, millions of old birth certificates filed away by the hundreds in school files, little league coaches' homes, summer camp archives, will lose all their black market value of $5-10,000 each. New certificates won't appear in such files in the future, as the law prohibits filing away originals. And those born in Puerto Rico won't have to rush out on July 1 to acquire a new birth certificate, only when they foresee that one of those infrequent times that you need one approaches, and then through the same methods of acquisition, at the same old price of $5.00.

Kenneth D. McClintock
PR Secretary of State