What to do when seeing famous Social Security Numbers

The issue I raise in this post might have been sent in decades past to someone like Ann Landers, but today seems better posed as a blog item.  The social security number of a famous living artist appears on publicly accessible litigation documents I examined last week in my current research.  On seeing it, I immediately e-mailed  the person’s lawyer, equally prominent, reporting this.  Within eight minutes, the lawyer replied, with an appreciative note.   Yet, one week later, the exhibit with social security number remains on line and publicly accessible.    Should I do anything else?  Is it likely that an exploiter of SSNs will find their way into the deep space of litigation documents that a researcher of the arcane like me will pursue?

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3 Responses

  1. Dissent says:

    You are right to be concerned, Lawrence, and I commend you for trying to help the artist protect him/herself from ID theft.

    I’ve posted a number of cases on my web site and its companion site, databreaches.net, where ID thieves obtained SSN from publicly available records that they then used for purposes of fraud or ID theft. One of the biggest cases of its kind involved Franklin County, Ohio posting SSNs as part of its records on their web site. Over 250 people became victims of ID theft that was presumably linked to the exposure of their SSN on the site.

    Cybercriminals routinely run searches to find SSN on the web.

    Betty Ostergren of The Virginia Watchdog has been campaigning for years to get courts and public agencies to redact SSN and other sensitive information. To make her point, she has occasionally posted famous people’s SSN on her web site that she found exposed on the web. You might tell the lawyer that if s/he doesn’t want to see the artist’s name and SSN on Betty’s site or linked to from one of my sites, it would be prudent to get that document secured quickly.

  2. A serious breach says:

    There’s almost a degree of difficulty to that lawyer mucking up the filing that badly. Not only does FRPC 5.2 require (in most circumstances) the redaction of SSNs, but when you use ECF to file the documents you have to click a box saying that you complied with FRCP 5.2 by redacting SSNs and other private info. So no attorney can claim ignorance.

  3. Ted G. says:

    You have a right to be concerned about your social security number being posted in a place where identity thieves can possibly find it.

    But, to my own surprise, I was able to locate a place on the world wide web that has the Soc. Sec. Numbers of just about everyone…and it is fed to the website directly from the Social Security Administration.

    Also, a few short years ago there were multiple websites that allowed you to look-up the date of birth of just about everyone ever born in the USA. Most of those sites have now been closed, but there is still a “database feed” that can be accessed by those that know what they are doing.