How does a birth certificate prove one's identity

One thing I have often wondered when ID issues came up, for example in the thread

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=661653

A birth certificate seems to be sufficient to prove citizenship in the US, and to have other forms of ID issued.

Only, what does the birth certificate actually prove with respect to the person presenting it? In the case of that Puerto Rican lady it will state that baby $firstname $middlenames $lastname was born at $date at $place, of mother $name2 (and, probably, father of record $name3).

So, the lady can prove that this ex-baby is a US citizen (unless it has since died or renounced US citizenship). But how does she prove that she is the same person?

It establishes that the person you claim to be existed at the time of birth. If you have a birth certificate, it was probably given to you by your parents. To get a copy you’d have to resolve the problem of proving your identify without a birth certificate. So like any other form of identification it doesn’t prove anything, but it increases the likelihood that you are who you claim to be.

I think the OP is asking how a birth certificate proves it’s you that has it. You could very well have someone else’s and since there is no picture or thumbprint, it comes back to your word, “This is mine.”

Do they still put the footprints on the certificate?

Bolding mine. Or ordered from the County Clerk / County Recorder. I’m always surprised by the number of people who think you have to have the original piece of paper given your parents at birth.

They didn’t when I was born. And AFAIK, if they ever did, they aren’t part of the now-computerized, officially-provided paper you pay for and get on request, at least on the ones I’ve seen.

And the one supplied by my parents was not accepted by Social Security when I had to provide it recently; I had to get a duplicate from the County Recorder’s office instead. Original = no good, duplicate = good.

A photo I.D. establishes that you’re you, $firstname $lastname. A birth certificate establishes that $firstname $lasttname is a U.S. citiizen.

When I was in university, more than a few of my friends got birth certificates of people who had died, and then used it to get ID for underage drinking. In the 80’s it wasn’t that hard and I believe the penalties for rich white college kids wasn’t very onerous.

But nothing proves that it’s you. Identification is based on the accumulated evidence increasing the likelihood of identification. The birth certificate simply establishes that the person you claim to be existed at the time of birth. It can be used to establish citizenship as mentioned above. It can be used to establish age, so if your birth certificate says you are 10 years old and you look like an adult, it’s disproving your claim. The birth certificate establishes your sex if your name is Chris or Pat. And it’s also more likely that a person who has a birth certificate has their own, than not (although it isn’t difficult to obtain someone else’s birth certificate since registered copies are accepted).

True. But the birth certificate is not proof of identity; it’s proof of citizenship (plus, as you note, age and a few other things, like parentage). Typically government prove-who-you-are instahces require proof of identity and of citizenship. So, as Coffeecat notes, you provide a photo ID or other proof that you are indeed Luitpold Bartholomew Kaganovic, and then the birth certificate that proves that Luitpold Bartholomew Kaganovic was born in Milwaukee WI on August 3, 1954. You may also have to provide proof of residence, which might be a tax bill, government check, utility bill, etc., made out to Luitpold Bartholomew Kaganovic at 7942 Mockingbird Trail, Fauxenglyshe Heights, Frostproof FL.

Right – the BC in not proof of identity itself. It is a supporting document to the evidence that must be presented to establish proof of identity.

OK, quick reminder of what we’ve gone through over the last 3 and a half years: What most people commonly call a “Birth Certificate” and is required by law to carry out some legal transactions is in fact a Certified Copy of a Record of Live Birth, usually a computer-generated rundown of the circumstances of birth as the appeared on the original record and were entered into the database, printed on security paper and signed and stamped by the appropriate authority. The* original* record/certificate is in a file somewhere in the Civil Registry office that services your municipality of birth (provided they haven’t digitized/microfiched them all and discarded the paper) it’s not going anywhere, and hardly any jurisdiction makes a direct copy of it any more to issue to the citizen except in extraordinary cases. And as **Musicat **found out, the “original” may no longer be accepted.

To wit, and because it’s mentioned in the example: Puerto Rico went through a plague of ID theft using misappropriated documents due to a stupid policy over more than 20 years of requiring people to get multiple CCORLBs issued (they are inexpensive, actually) *and hand them over to be **kept *on file by the school, employer, government agency, etc., you were dealing with :eek: – as opposed to them checking the info and returning it to you. Agencies and businesses across the USA were adopting policies to flag a PR CCORLB as likely to be altered or stolen. So it was necessary in our case to, get this, void all our CCORLBs issued before 2010. So we ALL had to get new ones. It’s not that hard, or expensive, for residents, but a damn hassle for nonresidents.

We just had to get my fiance’s birth certificate reissued from Alabama. We went online, filled out a form (actually, I did it for him) with information that pretty much anybody could have found out, and they mailed it to us. We needed it for a passport. Now, we did need ID also for the passport, but we could have just gotten the driver’s license with the birth certificate, couldn’t we? And then taken both to get the passport.

Actually, he’s wearing the same shirt in his license and passport photos - I teased him about how that’s going to put him on a watch list, and then I thought, hmm.

That’s my point.

Tripolar, here’s my certified copy of my birth certificate. Now give me yours. If I apply to something, I guess I can prove I’m Tripolar, and you are Musicat? That’s where the problem exits. The system relies on us not exchanging documents. Pretty weak identity check, methinks.

But you originally get that photo ID by presenting…a birth certificate and a social security card. And you/or your parents got the social security card by presenting…a birth certificate.

And don’t get me started on utility bills. Most don’t verify ID when you sign up. I could easily offer to pay a friend’s water bill if he let me put the bill in my name so I could establish residency.

So it is sort of bootstrapping to say that those other documents verify identification when they were issued because of your birth certificate.

As another poster said, in the late 80s and early 90s, in order to get an ID for drinking purposes, all you needed was an older sibling. If John Smith was 22, and Jim Smith was 17, all Jim had to do was take his brother John’s birth certificate and social security card to the DMV and say that he lost his license, and could he please get a replacement. “You don’t look 22.” “Yeah, I get that all of the time. But here’s my documents and please gimme a new license, I’m in a hurry.”

Sure thing…Smile for the picture and there was John Smith’s info on a license with Jim’s picture. And John didn’t really lose his license, so he had the card saying it was valid.

Now this doesn’t work because the digital image is stored in the computer and when Jim tried to get a license, there would be his brother’s picture on the screen.

Yep/ Because there is no such thing as an honest man in the U.S. any more. By the way, who are you really? :stuck_out_tongue:

Nowadays, if you did that, and let’s say Jim and John are nigh-identical in physical features, would the old driver’s license be flagged as invalid? I know that adding various scanning features (barcodes, magnetic stripes, smartcard chips encoded with biometric data, etc.) into IDs is a big thing lately. I could easily see it working out that when the younger brother gets a copy of his big brother’s ID made, his big brother risks being caught without a license the next time he speeds in a construction zone and the cop scans his driver’s license for verification…

Of course you can establish a new identity just by doing some basic research, starting with a birth certificate, and building up your documentation including a driver’s license from there. It is pretty easy to do and people do it all the time. One time-tested trick is to go to cemeteries and find someone who died young but had your same year of birth and request their birth certificate and work from there. You know you won’t run into a conflict with them reporting a stolen identity because they are dead. With government databases becoming much more integrated now, I am not sure I would trust that strategy now but people still do it.

The answer to the OP is that a birth certificate is a completely insecure document yet it can still be used to build up an almost irrefutable identity if you know what you are doing. There is no one identifier that can show a person isn’t who they say they are when a birth certificate is presented. Fingerprints and DNA aren’t taken at birth so an adult who wants to establish a new identity can do it. Closing that loophole would make it impossible for some legitimate people to ever prove who they say they are so it is a necessary tradeoff.

I got a US passport with a BC and a non-government laminated ID card, my dad was with me in case I needed him to do an certify I was who I said I was(if you do not have photo ID they will accept a sworn statement from a US citizen) but the women at the counter accepted it with no complaint. I was nineteen at the time, I imagine they might be more skeptical the older you are.

The OP seems to be asking what would stop someone from impersonating the actual person the BC was issued to, and the answer is nothing really. Hell I even made a thread about this where I asked if anyone could stand up to birther scrutiny, of course they can’t. Can you prove you aren’t a imposter? Can you account for your whole life? I’ve had store clerks tell me I don’t look like my passport photo(I have one issued before the biometric crap) so how can I prove I’m the real grude, maybe I am a similar looking imposter?!

But this is true of almost all identity documents, I don’t recall anyone checking photo IDs at my wedding, only when we got the license, maybe in some outlandish scenario one or more imposters got married in our place. But if you are being rational you realize that you look at the totality of the evidence, rather than saying because something cannot be proven impossible with 100% certainty it must be the truth.

However I imagine the older you get having nothing but a BC gets viewed stranger and stranger, 35 and all you have is a BC?:dubious: They might want to get statements from parents or siblings, now you’d have to ask why other people would be in on the deception(and charge them with perjury).

Had to sit through a slide show about biometric ID systems. Some of those things are pretty cool, even if they are a touch Orweilian. When you register someone for an ID to let them into a certain area, you do whatever background checks you feel acceptable to verify they are who they say they are, then encode the chip on the ID card with fingerprints, iris scans, a headshot photo, etc., and every time someone tries to use that ID, you can use their fingerprints, iris scan, and a quick snapshot to verify that they match up with the data on the card and in your system.

Someone working on base gets caught stealing stuff? Blacklist them in the system. Now then they try to use their ID to get onto base again, their data is flagged and you can turn them away or arrest them or whatever is appropriate.

Of course, it all depends on the initial registration not being them spinning up a new life story for themselves, but at least from that point on you have some consistency.

As with any ID verification system, I can see this going all Big Brother too if misapplied, so yeah.

Right. Adding it to other identification requirements increases the accuracy of identification. A birth certificate doesn’t do much by itself.