Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. While Oklahoma doesn't have the highest number of identity theft victims, Oklahoma County may have been an unknowing partner in the crime.
News On 6 reporter Stacey Cameron reports Oklahoma County's been a leader in helping county residents access government information online, but in one case the help may have been hurtful.
Inside the Oklahoma County Clerk's office, every type of government record imaginable is documented, bound in a book and eventually placed on a shelf. By law, it's all available for public inspection. Wanting to make land records more accessible, Oklahoma County developed its Web site, and about two years ago put copies of every deed, mortgage and tax lien online.
It's a great public service, but there is a problem.
Search land records, pull a tax lien, and you might find someone's social security number. When Oklahoma County first went online with property records, didn't they worry about publishing social security numbers? Not according to Oklahoma County Clerk Carolynn Caudill.
"They didn't think these records were a big issue," Caudill said.
Craig Davis helps the AARP fight identity theft online. He said putting anyone's social number on a government web site is big a problem, even if the web site helps more people than it hurts.
"We're all for free information, but we just believe consumer's information needs to be safeguarded at all costs," Davis said.
In an effort to safeguard people's identity, Oklahoma County is now working to redact all social security numbers on the web site. That too comes at a cost.
"It's around $200,000," Caudill said.
That money will be spent to redact the approximately 400,000 social security numbers currently online.
If you are worried about you personal information, the Oklahoma County's government web site has a form you can fill out to have your sensitive information pulled from all public records.
Caudill said all the social security numbers should be off the web site within the next two weeks.
In the meantime, there are no plans to pull the site offline.
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