TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Think Your Social Security Number Is Secure? Think Again

Think Your Social Security Number Is Secure? Think Again

Monty Solomon (
Sun, 25 Feb 2007 00:35:10 -0500

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The New York Times
February 24, 2007

It should come as little surprise that Social Security numbers are
posted on the Internet. But, says Betty Ostergren, a former insurance
claims supervisor in suburban Richmond, Va., who has spent years
trolling for them, "people are always astounded" to learn that theirs
is one of them.

Mrs. Ostergren, 57, has made a name for herself as a gadfly as she
took on a lonely and sometimes frustrating mission to draw attention
to the situation. With addresses, dates of birth and maiden names
often associated with Social Security numbers, she said, they are a
gift to data thieves.

But in the last few weeks, Mrs. Ostergren's Web site, The Virginia
Watchdog -- with the help of lobbying from an unexpected ally,
America's farm bureaus -- is having an effect.

One by one, states and counties have started removing images of
documents that contain Social Security numbers, or they are blocking
out the numbers. Four states, including New York, have removed links
to images of public documents containing Social Security numbers.

Snohomish County, Wash., for example, said Wednesday that 61 types of
documents, including tax liens and marriage certificates, would be
blocked. (The documents are supposed to remain public at courthouses
or state offices.)

On Wednesday, the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, issued a legal
opinion that county clerks could be committing a crime by revealing
Social Security numbers on the Internet.

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