The keeper of Wyoming’s birth certificates is warning against websites that act like a middleman for people seeking vital records, but then lift personal information along the way.
“It’s just disheartening sometimes to think people are potentially doing something that they think is not harmful at all,” Guy Beaudoin, Deputy State Registrar for the Wyoming Department of Health, told Cowboy State Daily. “That data could be used fraudulently, and you wouldn’t know about it.”
Here’s how it works.
A few websites pop up when a person Googles “Wyoming Vital Records.” Some of those websites, like vitalrecordsonline.com, offer a service and a form for people to fill out. For a fee, the site sends that form to the Wyoming Department of Health to apply for a birth, death, marriage or divorce certificate on the client’s behalf.
But the Wyoming Department of Health already offers these applications online for half the price, Beaudoin said.
If the companies are making a profit for each application and coming up above the state department in the search results, that’s one thing – but third-party companies having a person’s personal data is a whole other concern, said Beaudoin.
He said companies will ask for the client’s mother’s maiden name and other “things unique to you” in applying for the record. Such details are also used as password keys on some websites, including people’s online bank accounts.
Beaudoin said the “password nexus” also concerns him.
“It’s just one of those things — as you look at how much information is put out online, our ignorance is sometimes bliss. We don’t really know who has access to everything,” he said.
This Town Ain’t Big Enough
One such company, Vital Records LLC, was registered in Wyoming until recently.
The business was registered in Wyoming to Registered Agents Inc. in Sheridan. It was operating in the same way by providing a form that the Department of Health already offers, sending it in for a fee, then sending the client his or her certificate.
The state shut that business down.
“We contacted them to let them know that they did not represent us,” said Beaudoin. Then the Wyoming Department of Health reported the business to the Wyoming attorney general’s consumer protection group.
About a year later, the company “just went and no longer renewed the LLC,” he said.
Maybe There’s A Link
Beaudoin said he saw an attempted fraud a couple months ago that may have used lifted data from businesses like these.
“We recently had a woman… who’d claimed to be a Wyoming resident to access well over $1 million” in unclaimed property, under Wyoming’s unclaimed property listings, said Beaudoin.
He theorized that the forged Wyoming driver’s license the woman used could have been built from gleaned vital records information.
“Kudos to the unclaimed property (department) of Wyoming, they said, ‘This doesn’t look quite right,’” he said.
The unclaimed property division was personally familiar with the person the out-of-state woman was purporting to be, Beaudoin added.
$1 Million Just Sitting There
That $1 million-plus is still in the state’s unclaimed property. Beaudoin said the person to whom it belongs doesn’t want it, because having to report it would increase his or her taxes.
Jeff Robertson, administrator of unclaimed property, told Cowboy State Daily he couldn’t go into detail on how or why his department denied any property claims.
“We have received a couple of claims exceeding $1 million over the past year that have not been paid to date,” said Roberton in a Jan. 9 email. “We have asked these claimants to provide additional information/documentation to support their claim that they are the rightful owners, but to date we have not received sufficient information to pay the claims.”
Asking for more and better documentation is “common practice” when the department either receives fewer documents than required or the documents are “questionable,” he added.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.