10/30/08 — Concerns of privacy arise at deeds registry

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Concerns of privacy arise at deeds registry

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 30, 2008 1:46 PM

A story published in a Johnston County newspaper describing the problems that can arise from the fact that some people's Social Security numbers are posted on documents at that county's Registrar of Deeds Office has touched off concerns here.

Wayne Registrar of Deeds Lois Mooring said she has received several calls from people worried that their privacy might have been violated.

"That concern has spread from county to county," Mrs. Mooring said this week.

She said that some personal information has found its way onto the Wayne Cunty Web site in the past, but that such instances are rare when the volume of information involved is taken into account.

What people need to know is that if personal information does make it onto a document, they must complete and sign a "Public Records Redaction Request" before it can be removed, she said. A person cannot have the information removed just by calling the Register of Deeds Office.

Mrs. Mooring said the county has a three-step process that helps to spot and remove personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers before documents are posted on the county Web site.

"I have seen when people prepare a power of attorney that when they sign it they put the Social Security number below the signature," she said.

Sometimes banks place account numbers on documents as well, she added.

When someone brings a document into the Register of Deeds Office, staff members review the document with the person to determine if there is personal information the person wants removed.

"From day one I have advocated that people view their records on our Web site and if something contained in that document does not belong there, let me know and we can usually get it removed," she said. "It has always has been a concern of mine that personal information can be found on the Internet -- and on the Wayne County Register of Deeds' Web site -- in particular."

According to state law, "Any person preparing or filing a document for recordation or filing in the official record may not include a Social Security number, employer taxpayer identification, driver's license, state identification, passport, checking account, savings account, credit card or debit card number, or personal identification (PIN) code or passwords in the document unless expressly required by law or court order, adopted by the state registrar on records of vital events, or redacted so that no more than the last four digits of the identification number is included."

Mrs. Mooring said that earlier recording of documents in which personal information was recorded didn't concern people as much as it does and should do now that the information is so readily available on the Internet.

The form to have the information removed may be picked up at the Register of Deeds Office at the courthouse. The office also will mail or send a copy by fax, Mrs. Mooring said. No fee is charged.

Currently, documents dating back to 1969 are available for viewing online at www.waynegov.com.

Any earlier documents would require people to visit the Register of Deeds office to view them. Ms. Mooring encourages people to check their documents.

Anyone who needs assistance looking up information or who has questions concerning removal of information from the records should call the Register of Deeds Office at 731-1449.