NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Curbing Identity Fraud

September 4, 2002

Production and distribution of false documents has become a large and sophisticated industry. A wide variety of documents are involved, ranging from baptismal certificates to documents issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

However, three seemingly innocuous documents form the core of the crisis the United States now faces in ensuring that its personal identification documents and databases are secure. They are U.S. birth certificates, Social Security numbers (SSNs), and driver's licenses, according to a recent analysis.

Among the recommendations to reduce birth record fraud:

  • Regulating requests for birth certificates through standardized application forms.
  • Using a standard design and paper stock for certified copies of birth certificates.
  • Making certified copies of birth certificates issued by states or state-controlled vital records offices the only forms accepted by federal agencies.

For reducing Social Security document fraud, there are these suggestions:

  • Obtaining independent verification from the issuing agency (i.e., INS and the State Department) for all evidentiary documents submitted by noncitizens before issuing an original SSN.
  • Exploring the use of innovative technologies, such as biometrics, in the numeration process.
  • Expediting enhancements to the Social Security numbering system that will identify and prevent the assignment of SSNs in certain suspect circumstances

We can no longer tolerate the laissez-faire attitude that has been permitted with respect to vital identity credentials, experts say.

Source: Marti Dinerstein, "America's Identity Crisis: Document Fraud is Pervasive and Pernicious," Backgrounder, Center for Immigration Studies, April 2002.

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