THE VIRGINIA WATCHDOG
11/04/05 1645 hrs
This email below went to the Treasurer of York County and others at 1310 hrs today. After receiving this email the Treasurer has now ceased using SSNs as the "password" to get into people's confidential PP Tax records, but there is still the simple matter of why certain VA Treasurers are publishing the PP tax records anyway on the internet.... Where are the Commonwealth's Attorneys who are supposed to be enforcing the law in these counties where it is being done?
HERE'S the EMAIL....
I am glad to know that the City of Poquoson's Treasurer has told you of my concerns about you all publishing PP tax information on the internet. My concerns are truly in and for the best interests of the citizens of the City of Poquoson AND York County. But it infuriates me no end to know that you have known about this issue and have DONE NOTHING to stop it!!!!
The PP Tax information is Confidential under COV section 58.1-3 A & F linked here
Not only have you published that confidential information on the internet, but you are exposing it to anyone who may have someone's SSN. And you have a "Disclaimer" which is silly and worthless and will not protect you from prosecution for violating the law and it certainly doesn't protect people's confidential PP tax information.
You say in that Disclaimer that you are not responsible if someone uses someone else's SSN and then misuses or alters the data on your site. That is a joke! You are responsible and ANYONE could have you prosecuted for doing it. And you admit you're breaking the law in your Disclaimer when you say you are "PUBLISHING" the most accurate info... but the law says it SHALL be a Class 2 misdemeanor to publish or dissemninate PP tax info. So by your own admission (and the rest of the Treasurers using this program) you're all breaking the law, and I have approached Commonwealth's Attorneys in some counties and Poquoson to prosecute the Treasurers who have exposed this PP Tax info. A person should never see anymore about someone else's PP Tax business/affairs/info than they would see in the Personal Property Tax book in the Commissioner's office. They would never allow someone who had someone else's info to get the PP Tax info of that person but you are giving it away on YOUR website! And I am also told that the COR knew about this issue before today since the City of Poquoson's Treasurer sent them the email that they rec'd from me. But she didn't do/hasn't done anything about it either.
The City of Poquoson's Treasurer, as you know, has broken the links to the PP tax info like Westmoreland, City of F'burg, and Culpeper have done, but if anyone of those folks puts the info back up on the internet I have some "public" records containing SSNs that I will print on The Virginia Watchdog website to make my point, but I think that once people realize that this information is CONFIDENTIAL and is not protected by simply using a SSN to get to it, they won't be "publishing" it online anymore.
ANYONE may have someone else's SSN since the person they may want to know about may be divorced. And even a divorced person may not want their "ex" to find out their address or other info. But the way your system is now, you are allowing an "ex" to find the home address or P.O. Box of someone who may not want them to find it. And let's say an "ex" husband may have bought a boat and doesn't want his "ex-wife" to know that for example child support purposes...well, if the ex-wife remembers her ex-husband's SSN then SHE could get into the PRIVATE affairs of the husband and that's not right. But let's say the wife FORGOT the SSN of her ex-husband or vice versa, well, then all they have to do is look on the "Final Divorce Decree" and it's somewhere on that... Plus ANYONE could get a copy of someone's final decree from the Circuit Court Clerk's office like I did on Wednesday for a City of Poquoson official.
But it could be cell phone vendors, debt collectors, crooked cops/sheriffs, snoops, or others who just want to get into this info. And since SSNs are available by the thousands over in the Clerk's office, then ANYONE could do what I did and just go/drive there and get them - that is until next July when all Circuit Court Clerks have to be online with those records thanks to our VA legislators! And once you find a SSN on say a Deed of trust, then you look up the "trustee" and find every DOT that the SSNs were put on.
For example...do a search in your Clerk's office for George Edwards and use the time period of 01/01/1991 thru 01/01/1994 and there are DOTS there that have SSNs on them. He's just the one "trustee" I use. Anyway, you can lso look up judgments/liens for Federal and State and SSNs will be on those, too. So let's say your Clerk puts these records online well, then ANYONE (and ANYONE can) gets into them since they are "public" records and then they can find the SSNs and snoop all day or hunt someone down and find their new home address or PO Box #. Now people are at risk thanks to that and what you're doing because you'll have the most recent home address for someone... And those Circuit Court Clerk's records will be online and available to ANYONE by July 1, 2006 unless our illustrious legislators who came up with this in the first place - and created a special bill to allow the internet publication of the Clerk's records - reverse themselves in January.
When I was at the York County Clerk's office on Wednesday I got a full page of SSNs for Notary Commissions from 1997 and one name on that page is MELANIE L. RAPP and beside her name is her SSN!!!!! Since you have dragged your feet when you knew about this issue, I should scan that document in and publish it on my website anyway!!!
But that document also has 44 other SSNs on it including someone else's who I've already spoken to this morning but I would black out her name and SSN if I do it -that's how irritated I am to know you haven't done a lick to stop this mess. And you admitted to me over the phone when you said you have the County Attorney representing you that you knew about my concerns but you have taken NO ACTION either thru stubborness or stupidity.... but you don't have to tell me which.
Like I told you MOST Virginia Treasurers allow people to pay the PP Tax bill, but do NOT allow any access to the actual information like Year and make of vehicle/boat, plane etc. No person in VA has the right to know what PP another person owns or pays taxes on. And no person in VA has the right to find out a person's address - especially if a person has an unlisted phone number. ...
Here is the link to your site.
You should break all links to the Personal Property Tax records but don't do it for "me." Do it because you care about the good people of York County and the people who put you in that job. Like I said you should be allowing a person (even who has someone's SSN) to see no more than what would be published in the Personal Property Tax Book. If a person walks into the COR's office and asked to find out what someone owns like aplane, boat, car etc, they would be told to hit the road. But you are giving this information away for free on the INTERNET.
Lastly, does anyone in your office or the Commissioner's office think our Federal or state tax information would be put on the internet and then only use our SSNs to access it? Not hardly... I didn't make the law - I just want it enforced! And I expect the Commonwealth's Attorney to do it.
Betty "BJ" Ostergren, Founder
The Virginia Watchdog
(c) 2003 Ostergren, P.C. (Page Format Only)