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11/25/05    Online records battle nears end... Local activist may see her three-year crusade end in defeat next July

Click here to email BJ Ostergren, Founder


Click here to read the front page article in the 11/23/05 edition of the Mechanicsville Local. entitled Online records battle nears end... Local activist may see her three-year crusade end in defeat next July


Now read these comments below by TVW.....

Why haven't legislators realized that the documents recorded in the Circuit Court Clerks' offices contain signatures, SSNs, DOBs, minor children's names, mother's maiden names, financial account numbers that can be accessed online then used for nefarious purposes like identity theft, stalking, burglary, scams, etc?   Not to mention they're a treasure trove of info to pedophiles...

During the next Virginia General Assembly session, everyone of our Delegates and Senators should patron (and then support) a bill which would REPEAL the law (COV 17.1-225) allowing those records to be made available on the internet.   Why should anyone be able to sign up and then sit in their home and hunt up SSNs or kids' names?   Why spoon feed criminals?  Identity theft is the number one crime today and is rampant.  There have been documented cases linking these records to identity theft crimes but the folks who want these records online want you to "think" the records are safe.   That is not the case.  Having the records online with SSNs, signatures, etc is dangerous - not to mention reckless.

I have been dealing with this issue since August 2002 and am still finding Delegates and Senators who have not "gotten it" - they don't understand the "unintended consequences" of having these records available via the internet. 

Write letters to the Mechanicsville Local or your own hometown newspaper about this and also write to your Delegate and Senator.  Since Hanover's Senator, Bill Bolling, has been elected Lt. Governor word is that Delegate Ryan McDougle will be running for his Senate seat.   Will he pledge to put in a Senate bill to repeal 17.1-225 ?    

Let's make him pledge to put in a bill that stops internet access of these records. 

And why is Hanover Circuit Court Clerk, Frank Hargrove, Jr, still a member of the very group pushing online access?   Why hasn't he done anything to help The Virginia Watchdog coalition in this matter?  His own SSN (and his wife's) is on some mortgage papers of theirs... Doesn't he "get it?"   AND he will have to allow "anyone" who wants to have access to those records via the internet to have that access; he cannot deny ANYONE access to those PUBLIC RECORDS because the law prevents him from doing it.  

On August 28, 2002 during a telephone conversation, Clerk Hargrove told me that he was "totally computer illiterate" so is it any wonder that he would believe there is a such a thing as a "secure" website?  If he asks anyone familiar with the internet or anyone who knows how many sites have been hacked into and SSNs stolen, they'll tell him there is  no such thing as a "secure" site.   Here's a link to a list of sites hacked into just this year  compiled by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

But if someone wants to get into your records, don't you feel they should have to put forth some effort and DRIVE TO THE COURTHOUSE to see them?  

People aren't willing to put forth that effort...I know I wouldn't have driven to Scott County, VA to get Jerry and Terry Kilgore's records with their SSNs on one document, but I did sign up for online access and for $30, I was able to find thousands and thousands of SSNs from my own home computer.   I didn't even need the whole month - I just needed a couple of days.  I also signed up to get into Arlington's ($50), Loudoun's ($25 at the time), King William's ($30)... I also got into King George's, Warren's, and VA Beach's when they were free and took a guest "tour" of Wise County's records - for free.  In everyone of those places I had access - just like anyone else can have - to literally thousands and thousands of SSNs.   I have also sent out thousands and thousands of letters to people in those counties I named above and when they got those letters they were outraged that their Clerk had put them online.   It took my personal  money and time to do it, but it was (and remains) a worthy cause...  Several of those sites were shut down within 24 hours of my letters hitting in localities.  Here's an example of one of those letters.

Here are other suggestions to tell your legislator how to stop this online records mess in January during the next session of our General Assembly.  Spread the word and tell your neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc. about these records.

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