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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Indentity Theft Through County Public Records

Though I would agree that sometimes access to county public records helps to locate vital information, such as the name and address of a landlord, for which a property manager may refuse to provide, but is this access an open market to identity thieves?

I recently did some research to see what kind of personal data I could get from a search on the Bexar County Clerk's website, as a result of a news story that aired in Illinois about a man who is convinced that his identity was stolen based on personal data that was posted to his county clerk's website. As it turned out, I was able to get names, addresses, date of births, digital signatures, marriage certificates, employer IDs, and Social Security numbers just by putting in a date range and specific documents to review. Examples of documents that are scanned and posted are Land Records, Assumed Names, UCC Records, Marriage Licenses, and Foreclosure Notices. What I found most appalling was the release of social security numbers for those individuals who owed back child support. In addition, it seems ironic that there are state and federal laws that are supposed to protect us from having such personal data accessible by the public and yet most cities have government websites where this information is publicly attainable. However, you do have the right to require them to remove social security numbers and driver’s license numbers from any document where the original document includes this information. Unfortunately, in this day and age, that might not be enough.


1 Comment:

A. Van Gogh, Licensed Associate said...

In today's article:
Court records
Online access great benefit
El Paso Times Staff
Article Launched: 09/01/2007 12:00:00 AM MDT

Texas Attorney General gives "cautionary OK" to provide online access to El Paso County Clerk records. In addition, AG Abbott adds, "court clerks should anticipate and prepare for new laws directed toward greater privacy for Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers".

State Rep. Norma Chávez, D-El Paso, is planning on recommending legislature to ensure personal information in public documents is protected by law.