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Criminal Links to Government Web Sites

Scammers, stalkers, terrorists and murderers have been feeding on information served to them by local, state, and federal Web sites for more than twenty years.

 
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Online Records Linked to Identity Theft, and Worse
 
 
County Subscription Websites Illegal

The Ohio State Auditors office has determined that charging a fee to access "free" online public records is a violation of Ohio law. As a result, the Auditors office is closely monitoring and investigating the practices of Ohio Counties that publish public records online.

Heavy users of public records demanded cheaper access to the records than is allowed by law for copies obtained in person. Foreign data miners who were unable to visit the county courthouse wanted a flat online subscription fee. When counties responded with subscriptions designed to give banks, title companies, mortgage brokerages and law firms cheaper copies than are normally provided to other citizens they broke rules concerning copy costs.

At least three of Ohio's 88 counties are in violation of Ohio laws against online access according to an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer dated Jun. 14 2012.

Not the First Time Ohio State Websites Have Run Afoul of the Law

Ohio has a long history of problems with online access to public records as the records are often used by criminals for identify theft and other crimes.

In Sept 2012 a Lakewood Ohio man was surrounded by police at gunpoint, but the man looking down the police gun barrel wasn't a criminal. He was a victim of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles website providing his ID to a wanted murderer who used the innocent man's ID to commit additional crimes.

In 2008 the Cincinnati-based Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ruled that elected officials who publish private information contained in Public Records on their websites cannot rely on official immunity as a defense.

In 2007 police in Worthington Ohio said hundreds of people in five states were the victims of identity theft that resulted from county officials publishing sensitive information about their citizens over the Internet. They've asked the U.S. Secret Service to investigate the link between the Franklin County website and online identity theft.

In 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that included the case of an Ohio woman who pled guilty to conspiracy, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft as the leader of a group that stole citizens’ personal identifying information from a local public record keeper’s Web site and other sources, resulting in over $450,000 in losses to individuals, financial institutions, and other businesses.

In an article by News for Public Officials called Government Agencies, Foreign Companies Collide Over Online Records Issue, reported that a class action lawsuit was filed against Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for publishing Social Security numbers and other sensitive information on the states website. Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro said he thinks Blackwell has a legal duty to notify anyone whose number was on the site, and to remove any constitutionally protected information. The documents were pulled from the website two weeks later.

Identity thieves confess: everything they needed was on County Websites
Kevin Moehring pled guilty in July of 2002 to using the Hamilton County Ohio 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 Hamilton Court Clerk's site.

Posted 10-01-12


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