You may have noticed that there’s a trend toward eliminating personal identifiers – social security numbers, dates of birth and addresses – from all public records. Any publicly filed documents containing social security numbers are subject to being altered, removing the SSN identifier, or rejected until the personal information is redacted. Currently, financial records, tax liens, deeds and mortgage loan documents are being changed to the extent that it will become impossible to verify whether a federal, state or municipal tax lien belongs to a particular individual.
Fraud investigators, people finders, heir locators, financial lenders and journalists checking on the fitness of our politicians all rely on the unique identifier to develop background and verify identity.
The complete social security number is being removed from filed documents, not just from the Internet indexes and images. And guess what? The commercial databases aren’t going to be able to provide search results that cross reference SSNs on tax liens or judgments filed with county recorder’s offices with a name or address. The indexes of the data resellers are only as good as the original records.
The Missouri Secretary of State just announced that she’s removed the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) document images from the Web site.
The Secretary of State’s Office is taking every step possible to protect personal identification information (Social Security Numbers and Federal Identification Numbers) while continuing to provide service to our customers. As part of that effort, our office has temporarily removed Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) images from the web site as they may inadvertently contain personal identification information.
Although the Virginia legislature has yet to enact a pending bill that would remove SSNs from land records and court filings, Nevada county recorders are rejecting filings that contain social security numbers. This new requirement has created a mess in the courts because the County Clerk is required to submit affirmations that the “5,000 documents filed every day in District Court” have the social security numbers removed. Even in the relatively lower volume state of Vermont the county clerks are overwhelmed by the mandate to extract SSNs from previously submitted documents. The Kansas legislature apparently didn’t consider the costly (both personal and financial, to government and business) consequences of redacting data, declaring that
Unless required by federal law, no document available for public inspection or copying shall contain an individual’s social security number if such document contains such individual’s personal information.
Personal information is name, address, phone number or e-mail address. This applies to
documents recorded in the official records of any recorder of deeds of the county or to any documents filed in the official records of the court and shall be included, but not limited to, such documents of any records that when filed constitutes:
(1) A consensual or nonconsensual lien;
(2) an eviction record;
(3) a judgment;
(4) a conviction or arrest;
(5) a bankruptcy;
(6) a secretary of state filing; or
(7) a professional license.
Humm, no name on a professional license…
All of the 50 state governments will eventually succumb to this “identity theft” protection measure on court records, UCC filings and mortgage loan documents.
Why don’t these state legislatures follow the federal model, masking only part of the SSN, which achieves the aims of fraud prevention while keeping the unique association of the number with a name?