How Criminals Use Online
What uninformed "experts"
aren't telling you
David Bloys -
For Public Officials
A common, often repeated myth among proponents of online records is that,”
Nobody has ever documented a single case of identity theft using the online
records." Usually, the “expert”
will end the statement with a disclaimer
that says, “that I’m aware of.”
While some “experts” may choose to ignore the evidence, a growing list of cases have been documented by law enforcement and the criminals themselves.
& Notary Seals Copied
Franklin County 2007
Opponents Steal Lt. Governor’s Identity
Signatures, & Notary Seals Used to steal homes.
lawsuit filed against County
(Number one in the nation for identity theft)
Drug user shows police how he uses the County Website to forge checks
Just before Christmas 2005, Maricopa County Officials were denying that criminals
were using the County Website, while a 23-year-old methamphetamine user was
showing Scottsdale officers how he used the County Recorder’s Website to
The suspect showed officers something they had not seen before.
Browsing a government Web site, he pulled up a local divorce document
listing the parties' names, addresses and bank account numbers, along with
scans of their signatures. With a common software program and some check
stationery, the document provided all he needed to print checks in his
victims' names--and it was all made available, with some fanfare, by the
county recorder's office. The site had thousands of them.
This metropolitan area, which includes
Scottsdale and Phoenix, has the highest rate of identity theft complaints in
the nation, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Even members of the
Scottsdale police force have had their identities stolen.
Source: Technology and easy credit give identity thieves
an edge – TOM ZELLER,, New York Times
Florida (Number 6 on the FTC's
ID most affected list)
Signatures and Notary Seals copied from County Website
Law enforcement officials say deed forgery is particularly rampant in South
Florida, and especially in Miami-Dade County. Typically, property thieves
target homes and vacant lots that seem abandoned or have delinquent taxes
and multiple liens -- signs an owner isn't attentive.
Signatures and stamps for the deed can easily be copied from online
images of property records on Miami-Dade County Clerk's website,” said
Dennis Haber, president of the Attorneys Real Estate Council..
''It's so easy; I'm reluctant to say it because it might encourage people if
you put it in print.'' Haber said.
After that, all it takes is a trip to the store, the County Website and
then the clerk or county recorder's office.
''You can go to Office Depot to get a document and walk into any courthouse
in Florida and pay 10 bucks to record it and you own a home,'' said Sgt.
Richard Davis from Miami-Dade County Police's economic crimes bureau.
Criminals steal houses through deed forgery – MONICA HATCHER Miami
Deed Fraud Rampant in Florida's Online
Records – Newsday.com
Identity theft lawsuit filed
against Grant County
In another example, the
recorder's office in Grant County, Indiana, pulled all of its document
images from the Internet in July after a lawsuit related to identity theft
was filed against the county. "There are no definite plans to put them back
up on the Internet although Social Security Numbers will be redacted
starting next year," said County Recorder Dixi Fischer Conner.
Counties work to hide personal data - Jaikumar Vijayan, COMPUTER
Texas (Ranked # 4 in the FTC's list of most
Signatures and driver’s license numbers used to steal home
Police in Frisco, Texas reported the fraud as a new twist on identity theft
where criminals used a copy of a signature and driver’s license number to
file a fraudulent deed with the Denton County Clerk's office. If Sergeant
Gina McFarlin knew where the thieves might have stolen the sensitive
information, she didn't say.
News for Public Officials researcher Lisa Ramsey found the victim’s driver’s
license number and several copies of her signature on the Denton County
Clerk’s subscription Website. We may never know if the Clerk’s Website aided
the thieves who stole Paula Cook’s home, but it seems clear the Website
offers everything the thieves needed. The county is needlessly exposing hundreds of
thousands of Denton County residents.
Thief steals home Steve Stoler, WFAA -TV Dallas/Ft Worth
Clip-Clip, Paste-Paste and Their Home Was His
– News for Public Officials
Ohio (Ranked near the middle, coming in as #26
on the FTC list)
Identity thieves confess: everything they needed was on County Website
Kevin Moehring pled guilty in July of 2002 to using the Hamilton County
Website to steal the identity of Jim Moehring, general manager at U.S. Bank
Arena in Cincinnati. The tool for the identity theft was a speeding ticket
given to Jim Moehring that was posted at the court clerk site.
''He had everything: Social Security, address, height, weight, birth date,
signature -- everything,'' Jim Moehring, general manager at U.S. Bank Arena
in Cincinnati said. With that information, Kevin Moehring was able to run up
$11,000 of credit card debt before he was arrested.
In December, 2004, a day after Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann
announced he was removing 320,000 public documents from his Web site to
protect privacy, attorneys for a Cincinnati woman said Hartmann made the
move after she sued him following the theft of her identity.
Christian Jenkins, attorney for Cynthia Lambert, said, "They (County
Officials) were dismissive, saying 'You can't prove it came from us,'"
That changed, though, when Blue Ash police made an arrest in an identity
theft case and the arrested person admitted he was part of an identity theft
ring that used the clerk's Web site as a major source of personal
information to steal identities.
"I have seen increasing numbers of identity theft," Hartmann said. "We have
had a number of cases where police have told me the bad guys got the
information used to steal identities from my Web site.
Sgt. Joe Boyatt, chief of the Blue Ash Police Department's Criminal
Investigative Section, confirmed his department has made arrests of identity
thieves who confessed to getting personal information to help their crimes
from the clerk's Web site.
In March of 2006, Hamilton County’s Website problems resurfaced in a big
way. Federal authorities revealed that they had busted up an identity theft
ring in southwest Ohio. The suspects created false identification documents,
opened credit accounts and produced counterfeit checks in several states.
According to published reports, Social Security numbers and other
information gleaned from the Hamilton County government Website were
allegedly used to steal nearly $500,000.
Dirty Laundry, Online for All to See - New York Times By JENNIFER 8.
Website Flap Impacts any public office handling records containing
confidential data - Middletown Journal
8 accused of identity theft – Associated Press
Suit may have led to ID purge – Cincinnati Post
Franklin County Ohio
County Web Site Helped Thieves
Steal Identities of Victims in Five States
Police in Worthington Ohio say hundreds of people
in five states are the latest victims of identity theft that has
resulted from county officials publishing sensitive information about
citizens over the Internet. They've asked the U.S. Secret Service to
investigate the link between the county Web site and online identity
theft.... read full
New York (Number seven in the FTC's ID theft
County Clerk victim of identity theft
“I am a victim of identity theft. Just recently my social security number
was stolen”, Suffolk County legislator Edward Romaine said from his
Romaine saw $25,000 disappear from his bank account when someone stole his
social security number. While he didn’t say where the thief found the
number, as former county clerk, Romaine wants to call attention to -- and
seek changes in -- the county's Web site and its practice of making very
personal data a matter of public record -- accessed with a tax map
identification number, also public record.
Source: Suffolk Clerk Victim Of I.D. Theft – WCBS-TV New York
Maryland (Number 13 for number of victims per
Political Opponents Steal Lt. Governor’s Identity
Sometime around July 2005, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee research
director Katie Barge, and/or her deputy, Lauren B. Weiner, discovered
Steele’s Social Security number on some court records. The number was then
used to impersonate Mr. Steel to obtain his credit score. Video from WBAL-TV
Baltimore indicates the court document bearing Steele’s Social Security
number was found online.
According to the prosecutor's statement, which Weiner said was accurate, she
used Steele's Social Security number to access his credit score on a Web
site designed to let people view their reports.
Under a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, the misdemeanor charge
against Lauren B. Weiner could be dropped in a year if she completes 150
hours of community service and commits no other offenses.
An attorney for Steele said the lieutenant governor is considering a civil
suit against Weiner, 25, and the Democratic committee to learn more about
what he called "a dirty trick."
Democrat Pleads Guilty in Steele Case – Washington Post
Utah (Number 14 in the nation for identity
Children’s Identities Breached By State Website
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced on July 15, 2005 that five people
had been charged---and hundreds more may be charged----with stealing and
forging social security numbers belonging to children.
"Operation Protect the Children" was a joint investigation by the Utah
Attorney General's Office, Office of Inspector General for the Social
Security Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The
investigation uncovered an alarming new crime spree involving illegal aliens
and identities stolen from victims under the age of 12.
Attorney General Shurtleff said, "Children are vulnerable even if parents do
Investigators checked Utah state records and found that approximately 1,800
social security numbers, belonging to children under of 13, may have been
The suspects allegedly used the young victim's social security numbers to
get jobs, start businesses and open bank accounts.
Source: ID Theft Isn’t Just For Grown-ups - Utah Attorney
General Press Release, July 15, 2005
Names, Signatures, and notary
seals used to steal homes
James Andrew Ryan pleaded guilty to four counts of
forgery involving fictitious quitclaim deeds. In each instance, Ryan went
looking for what he judged to be run-down homes with unkempt yards. He wrote
down the address and researched the owner's name through county records.
Ryan then forged the owner's name on a quitclaim deed and finished it off
with a bogus notary public seal. The phony quitclaim deed, showing the
owner's interest conveyed to Ryan, was then recorded at the Pierce
County, Wash., auditor's office.
Subsequently, the county removed some types of document
images that contain sensitive information from the County Website .
Run-down home an invitation to fraud
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