Puerto Ricans are the latest targets for ID theft

March 17, 2010 7:03:25 PM PDT
Puerto Ricans born on the island will soon have their birth certificates scrapped. That's because thousands of certificates have been stolen and used in criminal activities. So as of July 1, the Puerto Rican government is invalidating all of them.

Jose Aguilar was born in Puerto Rico, which automatically makes him a U.S. citizen. The Puerto Rican government is now telling him he must apply for a new birth certificate.

"Puerto Ricans go through about 20 birth certificates in a lifetime for enrollment in school, sports activities or whatever," he said.

That's where the troubles began. Several law enforcement raids discovered thousands of Puerto Rican birth certificates that had been stolen from different public schools on the island.

"They are sold to people who are not Puerto Ricans so they can travel to the U.S. That's the last I heard, it crossed my mind one of them could be mine," Aguilar said.

And since Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics have similar surnames, who would question the impostor?

According to the Department of State, people pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for the birth certificates on the black market and once they have one, the possibilities are endless.

"Particularly you could get a driver's license and become a complete impostor of someone else," Joe Ridout of Consumer Action said.

And when applying for a passport, you need a birth certificate.

"According to the Department of State, 40 percent of all the fraudulent passport applications at the state department that were being investigated were coming from Puerto Rican birth certificates," Ridout said.

Homeland Security is also looking into these cases of identity theft.

"From a national security perspective a birth certificate gives access to a passport and that's what is really scary when you think of thousands of people now being able to get U.S. passports and travel in and out of the country undetected," Scott Mitic from Trusted ID said.

It's not just Puerto Rico, but every school district requires that you present a birth certificate or passport when you enroll your child. But from now on schools in Puerto Rico will no longer keep birth certificates.

The new certificates will be issued as of July 1 -- it will cost $5, but the fee will be waived to those over 60 or if you are a veteran.


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