Vitalchek is terrible

We don’t have a birth certificate for the Little Man. Obviously we are terrible parents, but the fact of the matter is, in Georgia you have to wait X number of weeks after the birth of your child to send off for a birth certificate, which then is delivered Y number of days/weeks later. Well, when the Little Man was born, X+Y = the date of our move to Connecticut. Then, once we got here, we never needed a birth certificate.

About 10 days ago, we found out that the Under-6 soccer league in our town is now open to 4 year olds. (The Little Man is big enough and athletic enough to play. Plus he was in Start Smart soccer last winter.) Signing up for rec sports requires a birth certificate. And the following fall will involve kindergarten. So, it’s time to get the paperwork in order.

At the Georgia Vital Records website, I was delighted to discover an online option for ordering the birth certificate. Just about the only thing I don’t order online these days is pizza. Plus, ordering online meant I could pay with a credit card, rather than having to get a money order or certified check, *and* they offered quicker delivery. Sounds great! The company providing these magical services is VitalChek–apparently they offer similar services in most states.

My friends, I’m here to tell you that VitalChek is a ripoff, and is no better than writing directly to the individual county’s vital records department. I still don’t have a copy of my kid’s birth certificate, and it doesn’t look like one will be coming soon. Here are some of the problems I’ve encountered:

  • They can only process your application online if they can verify your identity using your address, a credit card number, and your social security number. Now, I am not off the grid. I’m a homeowner. I have student loan debt. I have credit cards. A reasonably motivated 8 year old, given my social security number, could figure out who I am, where I live, and who I’m related to. What an 8 year old could do, VitalChek cannot. They were “unable to verify my identity,” and required me to fax a copy of my driver’s license.
  • VitalChek never confirms whether or not they’ve received a fax. I waited 2 business days (as requested by their site), and then started posting questions–it took more than a week before someone acknowledged that they’d received the fax. They still can’t process the request, though, because the driver’s license was only magnified to 150%, not 200%. Wouldn’t you want to contact somebody about an incomplete form? Especially if they’re paying for expedited service?
  • Their website was clearly set up by someone who hates consumers. Even after my recent communications with customer service, if I click on order status, and supply the order status number from my form, the website says, “We could not locate a receipt for Order Number” X. That error message makes no sense–clearly they have a record of the order number; the problem is that the request is incomplete. Moreover, the error message has been unchanged since last week–i.e., their receipt of the fax hasn’t corresponded to an update of the message.
  • Asking a question through their website is slightly confusing. It turns out you need to create an account in order to ask a question, but they don’t really tell you that. Also, after you submit your question, it looks as though your question’s been submitted, but there’s actually another click that’s required to dismiss their–completely unhelpful–FAQs.

I would recommend avoiding VitalChek if at all possible. (I also wonder why a single firm is allowed to monetize public records in this way. Surely, either government agencies should do this for themselves, and profit from the handling fee, or a little competition ought to be introduced. But allowing one private agency exclusive access to the market just seems stupid.)

Update 9.18.08: Comments are now off–this isn’t really a consumer-type site, and I’m not looking to host a conversation about this.  Perhaps try the Consumerist?

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16 Responses to Vitalchek is terrible

  1. Ralph Bedingfield says:

    I agree, they also added an extra $17.50 handling fee that had not shown up until the transaction was done.

  2. JRP says:

    Agreed; I am trying to get en expedited copy of my birth certificate from New Jersey. Doing it through the state would take 12 – 16 weeks! Supposedly Vitalchek can do it in 3 – 4 weeks. I am having the same problem with them not being able to read my drivers license. I have faxed it and emailed a scan of it numerous times. I looked on their website and cannot find a phone number. What kind of business is this, that you cannot call them? I don’t understand why it takes so long to process one piece of paper.

  3. Rod says:

    What exclusive access? Does VitalCheck have some contract with all 4,000 American counties that the rest of us can’t have?

  4. jim says:

    Vitalchek obtained all my
    information for a Birth
    Certificate on 3/19/08.. I
    paid the extra $54.00 for
    UPS/Express mail.. Today is
    3/27/08 and they have not
    shipped the certificate to
    date. I have e-mailed them
    4 times (3/24, 3/25, 3/26 and
    3/27 and noone has e-mailed
    me back regarding the status.. The company is a “rip-off” in my opinion and
    I would never recommend them
    to anyone…I will be sending a letter to the Chairman/CEO Derek V. Smith with my concerns… I recommend you do the same!!!

  5. R. Engle says:

    I found the same problem when, a half hour after making my order I received a found a phone number for the Vital Statistics office in question and they said to call vitalchek and cancel your order. Seems the birth certificates I ordered were not the correct ones. Now I am looking for a phone number to call them and cannot find one. I even called toll free information and there is nothing listed.
    You are right, though this is partially my fault, I still feel Vitalcheck is a ripoff.

  6. JV says:

    I agree as well. Me and my girlfriend want to get married and therefore need a simple birth certificate. We sent them passport copies (twice), town hall stamped documents proving our address and place of residence, extracts from the Dutch birth registry, letterheads from utility companies and some more. Although we sent it by official mail (with confirmation), only some of their customer support staff can actually retrieve those documents. After endless calls and being redirected about twenty times, the net result is that they just want more paperwork: a driver’s license and a new copy of a passport, to be sent by email! Apart from a driver’s license not being an official ID in The Netherlands and it sporting a wrong address (surely only adding to the confusion with these cloudy heads), I am not willing to send any legal document by email. I might as well post it to the whole world at once.
    In my view, these people are horribly expensive, less than competent and can stay so by a clear monopoly. It’s far cheaper and less hassle to fly over from Europe and do the job myself. Incredible.

  7. Ray Ray says:

    After reading the previous comments I thought surely all the posts were from people who just had a bad experience and for sure Vitalchek provides a number to call. Upon review of their website I can’t find a phone number so after some research I did find the number to customer care (1-800-255-2414). Hope this helps some of you guys.

  8. Ray Ray says:

    I found out that this company was started by a man who moved from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and needed to enroll his kids in school. He then found out he needed their birth certificates and started calling around. After many phone calls he found the only way to get them was to fly back to Pennsylvania and go in person to the vital records office. He started the company to help out other people so that they wouldn’t have to go through what he did.

  9. Gary T says:

    I agree with every concern mentioned on this page and as for expedited service…what a joke. I had scanned my drivers license 2 times and they wanted increased in size. I sent an email that explained that I looked at the copy sent and it is as clear as a bell. I asked what was not legible and low and behold they confirmed that they faxed it to the authorization department. Why not just give us their e-mail address and we can e-mail them directly so that they don’t have to worry about the clearness of the fax. Lets see how long it takes now already been 7 days since this started.

  10. dct says:

    I’ve used Vitalcheck 4 times now. So far, I’ve had no problems. The price is too high; however, I was not in the mood to wait nor go to Chicago or Memphis to personally get certified docs on births and marriage. I really paid for this service each time, but I got my docs quickly and hassle free. Hallelujah! Sorry you had sooooo much trouble.

  11. CJ says:

    It worked great for me. I placed the order online Monday 10am and recieved it 2 days later from UPS on Wedneasday 5pm.

  12. joan akason says:

    terrible co vitalchek cannot get hold of them via phone and lies are they state online 2\3 days to get birth cert, and then when I sent stuff find out it is 3 weeks, and cannot leave country w/o cert, so what a mess

  13. kodi says:

    I totally agree. They don’t do what they tell. I ordered a copy of my son’s birth certificate via Vitalcheck and i waited two months . Still it did not receive. Eventually I called to vitalcheck. It’s funny what they told me. They told me to call the health department.

    In vain!. My money and time. I could apply directly via regular mail.

    We use such a service for faster service paying little more. But it is useless. Don’t use that funny service. They are not responsible for our orders. They just take our money.

  14. Sarah Potter says:

    I’ve never seen anyone get it without having to verify identity via fax. the whole thing seems like a scam to me. AND if you cancel out and don’t send the fax verifying your identity- they STILL charge you $12 for doing absolutely nothing. A charge of $12, just for visiting their site!
    Anyways, I just got off the phone with them- the number is 1-800-669-8312 (I got the phone number complements of the ancestry.com team)
    Hope that helps someone.
    File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau- those seem to get resolved “somewhat” quickly.
    They have enough filed…

  15. Ed says:

    DO NOT USE VITALCHEK..HUGE SCAM!!! No way to contact, No answers to email!! No listed phone number and their website is all screwed up!!! I think they are taking our money and getting our personal verified information for their own use!!
    What else could it be when they don’t provide the promised services, and they dont answer emails or provide any contact information?? I’m a little more than worried about what they plan to do with my personal “VERIFIED” information!!!! DAMN THEM TO HELL!!!

  16. Bel says:

    I didn’t have much of a problem with them. I didn’t like the added $17.50 fee but I got my birth certificate in 2 days (Jersey)!