Is My DMV Record Public? How About My Voting History?? Public Records Checklist.

public-info

With the ease of information gathering these days, we are finding that many people are worried about their relevant data availability to the general public.  Many information brokering sites aggregate personal information from public records and it’s important to realize that most information is gathered through voluntary release from the individual (e.g., your date of birth from a subscription). Below we provide a checklist of common information that is public and that which requires additional permissions.

Personal public records may include some or all of the following information:

  • Name
  • Address.
  • Birth date/age
  • Names and contact information of family members
  • Names and contact information of neighbors
  • Political party affiliation
  • Past arrests, (and current) warrants and wants
  • Businesses or websites owned
  • Listed telephone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Recorded real property records (developed/undeveloped)
  • Recorded motor vehicle records (vehicles, aircraft, boats registration)*
  • Hunting and fishing licenses
  • Credit header (includes name, dob and address, possibly employment)
  • Litigation history
*Check your state for publicly available vehicle registration and ownership records release. 

Personal information that requires additional permissions:

  • Bank records (require a judgment in hand before processing)
  • Medical records (require signed HIPAA releases from the individual)
    • Doctor’s records
    • Hospital records (including ambulance call sheets)
    • Urgent care facilities
    • Dental records
    • Drug and alcohol treatment centers
  • Credit score and history (require individual’s signed authorization for release)
  • Social Security Number (requires release by the individual)
  • Marriage and divorce records (require authorization from one of the parties involved)
  • Birth certificates (require the party’s authorization)
  • DMV driver’s history (requires the driver’s authorization)

Business/Government Public Records

Business and government public records generally come from information recorded within the business or agency itself. They are often more statistical in nature.

Some information that may be available on a business or government public record include:

  • Revenue
  • Number of employees
  • Fictitious business names
  • Collection items
  • Business credit score
  • Payment history
  • Business ownership

Just a point of information with our presidential election drawing near; currently, only your party affiliation is a public record.  Several states, including Florida and California, however, are fighting legal battles to have these public records include your choice in each election in which you voted.  Aside from marketing purposes by the major parties (and many of those practices are questionable), I see no real necessary purpose for these very personal records to become public fodder.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

 

 

Behavior That Can Endanger You and Your Family.

We’re all guilty of it.  “It” being –  intentionally or not – exposing our private information in public.  Below are examples of this behavior that unnecessarily puts you and your family at risk.

1. Family graphics on a vehicle.

family car vinyl graphics

The criminal’s view of your adorable family stick-on:  If you have this family graphic on your vehicle, the burglar knows you have a baby in the family and therefore less inclined to fight back. Dad carrying a briefcase implies he’s the worker in the family, i.e., away during the day and or for work trips.  Given the number of children, perhaps Daddy’s wife is a soccer Mom (busy with errands), in and out on a routine (taking kids to school,  to play dates, practice, picking up kids…).  And if the dog is the same size as the cat, I’d put my money on the cat being the family protector.  This graphic is  way  TMI.

2. Responding with your date of birth, insurance carrier and or SSN in a pharmacy.

pharmacy

Discretely hand the pharmacist or pharmacy assistant your driver’s license or other form of valid government I.D. Ensure that you are fully blocking the view of the person behind you.  A bit of paranoia is preferred, especially if your medication is a desired prescription drug (e.g., Xanax, Valium, painkiller of any kind…).  If the employee behind the counter begins to comment, cut them off and ask them to respect your privacy.  Hey, it’s your info and these personal identifiers (especially DOBs and SSNs)  are extremely valuable to your local unauthorized pharmaceutical retailer.

3.  Posting photos of the family in front of the house, even if the address is not evident in the pic.

family ifo house

Most cameras and smartphones add location information to each picture taken, exposing the exact longitude and latitude of the image to anyone who wishes to view this geotagging data.  (On a positive note, social sites such as FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter automatically remove these geotags before posting. Common photo sharing sites such as Flickr, however, allow the embedded geographical information to remain.)  The pic taker/poster is often unaware of this invisible, embedded data.

How to locate and erase geotagging data:

a. Determine if your camera is geotagging your pictures. Any camera you use must have GPS enabled in order for geotagging to occur. This is very common in smartphones but many digital cameras have this capability as well. This data, called EXIF data, is invisible unless you know how to look for it.

b. To view EXIF data, go to Jeffrey’s EXIF Viewer (JEV), a very easy to use information locator that supports a wide variety of file types. JEV also  provides two different options for viewing geotagged images. The first allows you to view information from images already online. The second allows you to check images before they are posted online.  Follow the site directions. (For images stored on your computer, press Browse beside the Local Image File box. Choose the file in question and press View Image From File. You’ll receive the same geotagging info as you would for posted and on-camera photos.)

Now you know exactly what details you are providing to friends, family and potentially, strangers.  If you don’t want your location available, erase all EXIF data before posting or turn off GPS functionality when taking pictures with GPS enabled devices.

These starter tips can be helpful this summer in preserving your safety and that of your family but in all cases, just exercise common sense in unintentionally exposing your personal identifier information.

BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Your Social Security Number, Please? Just Say NO! When Disclosing Your SSN Is Mandatory.

ssn

Your Social Security number is one of the most important keys to your financial health. It’s a unique identifier that lenders use to assess your creditworthiness. It’s also exactly what a would-be thief needs to apply for a credit card, mortgage, car loan or job in your name.

If you’re like most Americans, it’s also something you give out all too frequently and often, unnecessarily.

Case in point: A recent Javelin Strategy & Research report — their ID Fraud Survey — found that, among identity theft victims, 38 percent said the perpetrator had obtained their Social Security number and used it in the crime.  It’s certainly logical to state that you could eliminate 38 percent of your risk of identity theft by limiting access to your Social Security number.

Also, given the massive government and corporate database breaches lately, it’s equally safe to assume that someone – other than you – has your SSN info.

So, when is it mandatory to provide your true SSN and when is it not required?  See our chart below, developed by credit reporting agency, Experian.

WHO CAN, CAN’T REQUIRE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
Mandatory                                                         Optional
Credit applications                                                 Doctor and dentist intake forms
Cash transactions over $10,000                          Supermarkets
When applying for certain federal benefits       Drugstores
Military paperwork                                                 Preschools
Department of Motor Vehicles                             Airlines

‘Your Social Security number, please’
Still, saying you are going to limit access to your SSN and doing it are two different things.  From the dentist’s office to your child’s pre-school, nearly every application or information form we fill out these days requests your Social Security number.  Shopping stores may ask for it, too, when accepting a check for payment or before issuing check cashing privileges. Potential employers also need it but it is important to remember that you should provide them your SSN only to process your E-Verify submission in anticipation of being employed at this company.  If you are not hired, request that your paperwork, identifying your SSN, be returned or destroyed.  Why would you want it lingering in someone else’s possession and have no control over who may have access to it?  You may also be asked for it by car dealerships, pawnshops, drugstores — even at the airport, should you lose your luggage.  It’s amazing how prolific this practice has become.  (A few years ago I was placing my mother’s things in storage, and I was asked for my SSN.  I denied the request.  It was wholly unnecessary for the transaction at hand.)

Just because someone asks for it doesn’t mean you have to comply,  especially since there are only a handful of organizations that actually have a valid need for it. For instance, anytime you’re applying for credit — for a new credit card, a loan, new utility or cellular service — the creditor will need your Social Security number to run a credit check. You’ll also need to provide it if you are applying for federal or local government benefits such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, unemployment insurance or disability. The local motor vehicle department, thanks to the USA PATRIOT Act, has the legal right to ask for Social Security numbers, too. In addition, when you complete a cash transaction totaling more than $10,000 you’ll be required to provide your number so that transaction can be reported to the IRS.

Medical professionals have their own reasons, too.  As morbid as this is, should you die while under a doctor’s care, they are required to put your Social Security number on the death certificate.

Still, fulfilling noncredit-related requests — even medical-related requests — is purely optional.  The problem however is that while you have the right to refuse to disclose your SSN, a business owner has a right to deny doing business with you.  Understandably, they want reassurance should they have to track you down for not paying a bill.

Gracefully saying ‘no’
One of the best ways to get out of giving your Social Security number to someone is to simply overlook it on your paperwork.  It’ll probably not be questioned  If so, however, simply ask why they need it.  But again, be prepared to be denied service if you refuse to provide it.

 

In the worst case scenario — when you absolutely can’t get out of it, but you still don’t feel comfortable –  make up a number.  Just make sure you write it down and don’t inadvertently steal someone else’s identity. The easiest way to ensure that is by putting in two zeros for the middle digits.  No Social Security Number have double zeros in that section.

It’s high time we take back control of our personal identifiers and especially one as important as our SSN which follows us from cradle to grave.  Just be smart and non-confrontational about it.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.