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Public records - a gold mine for identity theft criminals!

 

Public records - a gold mine for identity theft criminals!

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Apr 11, 7:10 PM EDT

House balks at expanding ID protection beyond Maricopa County

By PAUL DAVENPORT Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX (AP) -- The House on Wednesday refused to pay to expand proposed new protection against identity theft in Maricopa County to the state's 14 other counties.

The bill awaiting a formal House vote requires only Maricopa County to automatically erase Social Security numbers from online postings of public records. Some lawmakers said it's unfair to deprive other Arizonans of the same protection.

The Federal Trade Commission says that Arizona leads the nation in per-capita complaints of identify fraud. Identity thieves can use a person's identifying information, such as Social Security numbers, to gain access to financial data or accounts.

Maricopa County says it has the money to pay for automatic redacting without state funding because it, unlike less populous counties, has enough revenue from fees on filings.

Several Democratic lawmakers said it's unfair to deprive other Arizonans of the same protection for sensitive information in documents such as tax liens, child custody documents, death certificates and some deeds.

"The only reason we wouldn't be protected from identity theft under this legislation is that we don't live in Maricopa County," said Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-Tucson.

Prezelski offered an amendment, rejected on a vote of 24-26, to provide just under $4.8 million so the other 14 counties can remove the information.

"The only issue is really about the money," he said. "I don't think we should let our parsimony decide who gets protected from identity theft and who doesn't get protected from identity theft."

House Republicans objected to changing the bill without consulting its Senate sponsor, Republican Barbara Leff of Paradise Valley.

Leff told a House committee that heard the bill in February that she agreed to narrow its reach because most counties didn't have the money to do what Maricopa County could.

There may be a way to provide future funding for the other counties through some sort of licensing arrangement with Maricopa County's software vendor, Leff said.

Under the bill, Maricopa County has to redact Social Security numbers from online documents recorded after Dec. 31, 1985.

In other counties, recorders would have to redact Social Security numbers by Jan. 1, 2009, but only when individuals who identify specific documents request it.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said Wednesday that a survey she conducted found that images of documents in seven counties - Coconino, Graham, Greenlee, Maricopa, Navajo, Pinal and Yavapai - can be viewed online by the general public.

Rodriguez said she limits online viewing of actual documents filed with Pima County to subscribers, typically businesses such as title companies and law firms.

"That's a measure of protection that I chose to do in this county a long time ago," she said from Tucson. "In other counties, I can sit here and look at my sister's stuff if I want to."

The Senate previously approved a version of the bill that applied the automatic mandate to all counties, but that mandate was narrowed to Maricopa County after other counties argued that it was an unfunded mandate.

Leff said in February she got the idea for the bill when a constituent complained about his Social Security number being on a 1988 lien posted online. "He just panicked because he had no way of getting it off," she said.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said the project is costing Maricopa County $4.5 million. The county has 83 million images to scan, dating back to 1986, and 15 million have been processed so far.

"We felt this was a priority to do," she told the House committee in February.

On the Net:

Arizona Legislature: http://www.azleg.state.az.us