Birth Certificate Fraud Prevention?

How is Birth Certificate forgery prevented? My own certified birth certificate copy is a lousy second or third generation xerox (it’s even crooked) whose only fraud prevention measure is an embossed seal.

Give me a CNC milling machine, some aluminum stock, and an hour, and making my very own embossed seal as the Registrar of Podunk County would be trivial. With Photoshop, a typewriter, and a copy machine I could make my own authentically lousy looking form.

A Google search on this topic revealed nothing interesting but a twenty-year old govt. report on what a lousy job we were doing preventing this type of fraud. Please tell me we are doing better by now…

Admittedly, getting a SSN based on your fake certificate might be tough (they verify the birth with the issuing authority.)

However, you can obtain a passport without a SSN, and I can imagine all sorts of nefarious uses for a valid passport obtained under false pretenses, even if you might have difficulty getting a job.


No you can’t.

(Okay, the link isn’t direct, but you’ll see that a SSN is required (entry blank has a red asterisk).

Making the embossed seal is not trivial. In addition, nowadays birth certificates are put on official forms (in New York State, at least). Instead of a photocopy, you get a form on colored paper (mine is yellow with an interlocking weaving pattern in yellow ink). The form is filled out and signed by the registrar of vital statistics.

You’d have to steal the forms in order to fake the passport, especially when applying for a passport. That’s not easy to do.

I live in NY and recently had to get a copy of my birth certificate. Like the other poster, they gave me a crappy photocopy of the original town’s copy of my BC, and added an embossed seal. As far as I know, BCs are kept in the town office where you were born (that’s where I got mine). Mine is embossed with the seal for the town, not a state seal. So I imagine the standards vary greatly between towns and between states. Maybe new births use more stringent standards, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of worrying about the older documents.

As a matter of interest, what does an authentic birth certificate prove anyway, above the fact that a specified person has been born at a specified date? (i.e. how is it supposed to prove that you are that person?)

WAG: Officially endorsed birth certificates can only be obtained by the person or his/her parents?

Is it still possible for someone to be born without getting a birth certificate? Imagine a religious commune with a strong aversion to paperwork. What would Star Child Ignatowski (the palindrome) have to do when he leaves the family mung bean patch to become an investment banker?

(That is, besides slow… down… )

Yeah, I saw that, but I remember reading somewhere that obtaining a SSN is not a requirement to be a US citizen, so…

If you download the .pdf passport app, and look at the instructions, you will see that it explicitly states that you do not need a SSN. If you do not have one, you are supposed to fill in all zeros.


One thing to realize is that a birth certificate isn’t accepted as ID in many situations. You can’t get a SS number or card with just a BC for instance. My son, when he needed a replacement SS card, had to wait until he got back to high school to obtain an official government picture id. That made the SSA happy. The BC was of no use. Yes, you send it off for a passport, but as was pointed out all it proves is that someone was born in some location at some time. It doesn’t say anything about what that person has been doing since. Or whether the person applying for the passport is the person who was born on that date.

Making an embossed seal can’t be that hard, given that obtaining one is so inexpensive. I mean, you can get one made for your books for under $50. (Of course, I expect getting a legitimate company to make one proclaiming you be the official registrar of Podunk County would require the application of a Benjamin or two.)

I imagine the security in an embossed seal is that it is impossible to modify or erase, not that it is difficult to obtain a sealer.

Since there are so many existing “lousy xerox and a stamp” birth certificates out there, and they all have to be treated as valid, a high-security jurisdiction isn’t much of an obstacle.


In the UK, birth certificates these days come with a disclaimer - “WARNING - A CERTIFICATE IS NOT EVIDENCE OF IDENTITY”. But many institutions *have *used them as evidence of identity, leading to a lot of identity fraud. Hence the disclaimer. Of course, no document can absolutely prove identity, but utility bills, employers’ ID cards etc, can at least indicate that you’ve been using your identity for some time, and these are increasingly used instead of birth certificates when proof of identity is needed.

The only ID needed to obtain a passport is an affadavit from a US Citizen saying you are who you say you are sufficient alternate IDs to convince the passport clerk.

However, a US Passport is a basic citizenship document that is the “gold standard” for positive ID the world over. There is not a country in the world that would not accept a US Passport as proof of ID.

That is why I was wondering about how we really prevent fraud in obtaining this vital document.


I needed a new, original birth certificate several years ago, in order to have it apostille’d. I called up, gave them a credit card number, and out it came. There was no burden of providing my identity. They’ll send them to anyone.

Rather than the official certificate originally provided by the hospital, though, I received some computer-generated thing that reminds me of a Michigan car title. Raised lettering and seal, but imprinted with ink.

When it sent it off to an apostilling place, it came back with a fancy foil seal and some ribbons. It seemed like a fancy prize!

But this doesn’t take into account official copies of old birth certificates. I needed one for college so I got a copy (an offical one with the seal) in 1980. I still have it. I use it for everything from passport to a state ID.

It doesn’t have special features and such, maybe the new ones do but this is simply a piece of copy paper with a raised seal.

[quote=“sirwired, post:1, topic:466938”]

Give me a CNC milling machine, some aluminum stock, and an hour, and making my very own embossed seal as the Registrar of Podunk County would be trivial. With Photoshop, a typewriter, and a copy machine I could make my own authentically lousy looking form.
I used to operate a Bridgeport CNC milling machine and believe me you’ll find it a hell of a job, far from trivial

My eldest brother and I were born at home in the mid '50’s and the only record of our birth was an entry in the family bible, witnessed by my grandfather. It was a bit of an oddity I guess, but didn’t have any problems until I needed a SSN for work purposes at about 14 or so.

We were living in a different county by then, but my mother took me back to the county of my birth and they made a birth certificate for me from the information contained in the bible.

All five of my children were born at home between 1981 and 1990, some with a birth attendant (mid-wife), some without. We were never in a hurry to supply them with an official birth certificate, though they all had them by the time they were toddlers. Never got any guff from the county registrar with the simple documentation we collected and provided, which in one case was mostly photos and a letter from the neighbor down the road.

I have wondered this myself. When I needed a copy of my birth certificate (for my pension annuity in Canada), I wrote to the PA dept of vital stats (or some such office) in Harrisburg giving my birth name (different from the one I use, though never legally changed), date and place, along with their every modest fee (IIRC $6). To my surprise I got back a letter saying that if I could provide evidence that I had been using my name for at least ten years, they would provide me with a birth certificate in my new name. I photocopied some old and current passports, college diplomas and soon received the passport. I have no way of knowing if they made any independent check of the authenticity of the photocopies–I rather doubt it–but pretty much anyone could have requested this birth certificate. This happened maybe 10 years ago and they might have tightened up since.

It was somewhat harder to get my original passport under the new name. I was supposed to get two notarized signatures from people who knew me under both names. This pretty much limited it to my parents since they started using the new name about when I was born and no one else had ever known me under my birth name. If I had to do that today, I would be at a loss.