THE VIRGINIA WATCHDOG
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02/02/2006 CARROLL COUNTY, VA has remote access to SSNs, DOBs, etc...
Like 13 other Virginia counties - and many other states - the Circuit Court Clerk of Carroll County, VA , Carolyn Honeycutt, has made her citizens' records available via a "remote access" site. Those "public" records contain literally thousands and thousands of Social Security numbers, DOBs, minor children's names, mother's maiden names, financial account information, signatures, and much other personal information for present and past residents. Also in those records are the home addresses for every Judge, Sheriff/Deputy, magistrate, zoning enforcement official, bailiff, jailer, county employee, Doctor, nurse, single women, elderly women, and abused women... and all the dirty details anyone could ever want to read in the Final Divorce decrees which tell exactly who has custody of the children and where they are!
And people are raising hell about phone records being sold! What about all the SSNs and other personally identifying information in these records? It's being put at risk by a governmental agency called the Clerk of the Circuit Court! And no telling how many data brokers have gotten their hands on the whole database...
You used to have to drive to the courthouse to see these documents like Deeds of Trust (mortgage papers), financing statements (UCCs), judgments, state/federal tax liens, child support enforcement liens, guardianship papers, final divorce decrees with a name change, marriage licenses, powers of attorney, and Wills which are considered "land" records because they relate to title of land. And there is a move to also put online the "COURT" records!
The Clerk's "Disclaimer" found on her site at that link above, though, says not to rely on her remote system for title exam purposes. So why have the records online? So why put people at risk of identity theft, burglary, stalking, etc?
This online records system has been pushed for by the Circuit Court Clerks themselves, their "Clerks' Association", and open government groups whose membership includes the Press. The records are public and are open at every courthouse, but they shouldn't be available in ANYONE's home or office but our Virginia legislators voted to allow it when they passed a bill allowing internet access to the records back in 1997 without a thought about the unintended consequences.
The records for years have enjoyed what is known as "practical obscurity" within the four walls of the courthouse, but now no one has to dig thru the books... No, just bring up the images of the records on your computer screen for $25 a month access! A search for "internal Revenue Service" or IRS will bring up every Federal tax lien which has SSNs on it. A search for "Commonwealth of Virginia" will being up every judgment and every VA tax lien which have both SSNs and DOBs on them.
It is merely spoon feeding criminals since once a person signs up to get into the site, the Clerk has no control over who that person lets use their computer...or for whom they print out documents. ANYONE can sign up even though the Carroll County, VA Circuit Court Clerk, Carolyn Honeycutt, tried to tell The Virginia Watchdog founder today - on tape - that it's only for title examiners, real estate attorneys, and paralegals.
Nothing could be further from the truth! How many people have asked for access only to be denied?
Honeycutt found out today that the site SHALL be open to everyone who wants to sign up and The Virginia Watchdog's founder is signing up; however, it took the threat of a lawsuit against her to get her to see the light since she was adamant it was only for title examiners, etc. and refused at first. Her excuse in a second telecon was that she was "deep in thought" about "something else" when she got the first call from TVW's founder, BJ Ostergren... But not so deep as to give out erroneous information.
Just sign up and start digging! $25 a month.
And if ANYONE has a problem signing up to access her site, let The Virginia Watchdog know by email. I would like to see many people who live in this state sign up and get into her site and the others, too. Fairfax has over 1,200 users now accessing over 27 million records and MILLIONS of SSNs also for $25 a month!
She and the rest of the Clerks in the Virginia Circuit Court system are all aware - or should be - of the dangers of having them available via the internet. And it seems most are oblivious to the possibilities of redaction of the SSNs, etc. Florida has already passed a law giving the Clerks until January 1, 2007 to redact/black out the SSNs in the records.
QUESTION TO ASK HER: Why has she rushed to get the records online when 107 Clerks have not gone online yet with their records?
There are three bills in this session that can do something about this issue and stop all this mess: HB 842 put in by Delegate Jeff Frederick and it's almost identical bill SB 383 put in by Sen. Ryan McDougle... and HB 563 put in by Del. Sam Nixon. Links to the bills are on the front page of The Virginia Watchdog website.
(c) 2003 Ostergren, P.C. (Page Format Only)