THE VIRGINIA WATCHDOG
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12/01/09 - Powerful people are being protected in Shelby County, TN, but what about the tens of thousands that remain that belong to the less powerful, the less important people who also have no clue that their SSNs are online?
Shelby County, TN Register of Deeds, Tom Leatherwood, refuses to remove images of tens and tens of thousands of records containing Social Security numbers (SSNs) off his search site.
The Virginia Watchdog has found SSNs of people who didn't even know they were on the internet including Edmund Ford, Sr., former City councilman of Memphis and father of current city councilman, Edmund Ford, Jr.
In a phone call to Ford's home last Wednesday evening, Mr. & Mrs. Ford, Sr. had no idea that his SSN had been on Leatherwood's site for several years on Federal Tax liens even though they had paid them off.
The Commercial Appeal newspaper in a published story (11/15/09) reported that "... as a holding house for sensitive documents -- including mortgage deeds -- Leatherwood said he does not have legal authority to change or strip sensitive information without permission."
And in a phone conversation with the Register's office after that article came out, his office coordinator told The Virginia Watchdog that they would not remove any SSNs unless the people whose records they belonged to called them and gave them the document number and page.
However, in a strange twist, we are finding that important people like Ford, Sr. are being protected without them even knowing that their SSNs were on Leatherwood's site in the first place. Neither Ford, Sr. nor his wife had called Leatherwood but since 11/22/09, Ford, Sr's first five digits of his SSN had been x'd out.
But what about the tens of thousands that remain that belong to the less powerful, the less important people who also have no clue that their SSNs are online?
Leatherwood has put all those people at risk. Now what is he going to do about it?
Apparently nothing since he does not plan to shut the site down or remove the images.
SSNs are on Federal Tax liens, many powers of attorney, many Deeds of Trust (on first signature page) beginning in the early '90s, and UCC-1s (many in the 90s but most in the 2000s) just to name a few instruments that have them.
Click on his Property Records search link where it says "Search Type." On the pull down menu, click on "Instrument Type." Then below that, pick one of those types of instruments like Federal tax liens. Pick a time period like 01/01/1994 thru 01/01/1995. The "identifying number" column is where the SSN is for individuals.
A search showed SSNs to be on the federal tax liens on his site all the way back to the mid 70s. If there are two names on the tax lien then the SSN is for the first person named. If a tax lien is for one person, then that "Identifying Number" belongs to that one person and it is their SSN.
SSNs are found on Deeds of Trust and more can be found by doing an adverse search and looking up the "trustee" or mortgage company name for the same time period where a SSN is found.
On the UCCs, searching for Deere, New Holland Credit, Kubota Credit, Case Credit, Matco Tools will yield SSNs on early 2000 records. However, SSNs appear on records from the 90s as well.
Leatherwood is spoon feeding SSNs to identity thieves in this country and worldwide.
(c) 2003 Ostergren, P.C. (Page Format Only)