A new scam is targeting Virginians trying to obtain vital records such as forms from the Health Department or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The State Health Commissioner cautioned people not to use any third party services to obtain vital records and not to pay any fee for vital records application forms, according to a Monday news release from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

Such applications “have always been and always will be free,” the news release said.

Though the forms are free, there are fees for searches. Make sure all required payments go directly to the VDH Office of Vital Records.

People are running into trouble when they search for records online and click on third-party sites, said Janet Rainey, director and state registrar in the Division of Vital Records for the Department of Health in Richmond.

Typing commands like “order a Virginia birth certificate” will bring up pages of results, she said on Wednesday. But internet users should be aware that only official government sites will ensure information remains private.

“Data can be used to steal someone’s identity,” she said.

Though some people who used third-party sites received the documentation they ordered, she said others didn’t, and that’s when they contacted the VDH Office of Vital Records.

“[The office] has received complaints from customers who have mistakenly ordered and paid for vital records application forms from third party websites,” the release said. “These online services have no affiliation with the VDH Office of Vital Records or any state government entity. ... [T]his trend appears to be a nationwide problem.”

Official information and application forms are available at any Vital Records office in Virginia and at the Virginia Department of Health website, vdh.virginia.gov/vital-records" target="_blank">vdh.virginia.gov/vital-records. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is also an official resource for vital records information.

Local offices are:

• The Warren County Health Department, 465 W. 15th St., Suite 200, Front Royal

• The Woodstock DMV, 714-A N. Main St., Woodstock

• The Shenandoah County Health Department, 494 N. Main St., Woodstock

Many forms and transactions can be downloaded or filled out on the Office of Vital Records’ website. Before proceeding with any download or transaction, VDH advises Virginians to make sure the website www.vdh.virginia.gov is in the address bar.

For information on acquiring a certified Virginia vital record, visit vdh.virginia.gov/vital-records.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com