Some fear Kentucky's loose laws could lead to identity theft

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - WAVE 3 investigates a viewer's concerns that existing state law could lead to identity theft. He got his birth certificate without any proof of identification and could get other people's, which is legal under Kentucky law.

The viewer did not want to participate in the story, but Ashley Anderson, a student at the University of Louisville interested in journalism, agreed to help. She went inside the Office of Vital Statistics in Frankfort and bought a certified copy of her birth certificate and a friend named Kristi for $10 each.

All she needed was a name, date and county of birth, mother's maiden name, and father's name. Anderson says she was surprised how fast and easy it was.

"It's my birth certificate and it was someone else's birth certificate and I was able to just get their information - not even any sort of verification," said Anderson. "I didn't even need my ID or anything. I could have been anybody."

What she did was easy, but not illegal. Kentucky law allows people to obtain anyone's birth certificate with that information.

"We follow what the law is, Kentucky law," said State Epidemiologist Kraig Humbaugh who head's Vital Statistics. "It directs us to be able to give a certificate to matches that we find as long as the applicant pays the fee and has the information."

Humbaugh says the upside is that Kentuckians can get copies easily. WAVE 3 asked if it is too lenient.

"It's not for me to argue that," said Humbaugh. "It's for the legislature to make the laws and our job is to carry those out in the best way we can."

The last time anyone tackled this issue was in 2004.

"The public out there should be very, very concerned about who can get their identity and what they can do with it," said Fmr. Rep. Mike Weaver.

Weaver sponsored legislation seven years ago that would make it tougher to get vital records, but it didn't pass the Senate.

"You have a strong lobby of genealogists who say we need this so we can study history," said Weaver. "Well ok, you can study history, but I'm not history yet."

Weaver's concern is identity theft.

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General last studied birth certificate fraud in 2000 for the Department of Health and Human Services. It found Kentucky was one of the 14 easiest states to get a copy.

The report also found "between 85-90 percent of birth certificate fraud encountered by the Immigration and Naturalization Services and Passport Staff is the result of genuine birth certificates held by imposters--the most difficult fraud to detect."

"If you're between the ages of 18 and 50, somebody would probably like to have your identity and this is a path to getting it and it needs to be shut down," said Weaver.

Ashley Anderson fits right into that age range.

"I don't think anyone would want my identity right now because I'm a poor college student, but there are plenty of other people here in Louisville that probably have a lot saved up and if you can just walk in there and get your birth certificate, people could just easily get into important information," said Anderson.

Weaver says even though he isn't in the General Assembly, he is going to call his state senator and ask him to change the law.

The KY Attorney General's website has tips on how to protect yourself.  

Copyright 2011 WAVE News. All rights reserved.