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Senate committee reaches compromise on ID theft bill

Posted May 12, 2009

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— A state Senate judiciary committee reached a compromise Tuesday on proposed legislation to help protect personal information, such as Social Security, bank account and driver's license numbers, from being made public electronically.

Online government documents could lead to identity theft ID theft bill goes to full N.C. Senate

Under the negotiation, redacting any information that could potentially lead to identity theft would be voluntary until July 1, 2011, so counties have time to come up with a system to do so.

After July 1, 2011, it would become mandatory for the offices to redact the information.

The full Senate could vote on the bill as early as this week.

The North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005 stopped banks from putting personal numbers on housing documents, but it does not require government agencies to redact that information from public documents filed before the law went into effect.

Under current law, government agencies can remove the information only as individuals request it.

Although there is support for legislation, those close to the issue have expressed concerns about the costs associated with additional manpower and software needed to remove the information.

Kimberly Hargove, register of deeds in Harnett County and the legislative co-chairwoman for the North Carolina Association of Register of Deeds, said each county would have to hire a vendor to run the redaction software.

Quotes range from $300,000 to $1.5 million per county, she said. Only about a quarter of North Carolina's counties could afford to redact information voluntarily, she said..

Laura Riddick, register of deeds in Wake County, said she supports the effort but believes the state needs to help fund it.

It would cost $2 million to redact personal information from the 22.7 million documents in Wake County, she said. Because the software has a margin of error, she said, there would also need to be a dedicated staff to support the effort.

"This is an unfunded mandate in a time of budget cuts," Riddick said.

Durham County's register of deeds, Willie Covington, said he prefers the system as it is and that he would not know how he would begin to start going through records.

"I think it's a good idea to take baby steps by 2011," said Johnston County Register of Deeds Craig Olive. "We can prioritize our budgets all across the state.

As many as 20,000 documents contain personal information in Johnston County, he said. The price for him to redact the information, he said, is about $46,000.

The negotiation combines two bills that were previously before the committee for consideration.

Senate Bill 1017 would have required registers of deeds to use optical character recognition technology or other reasonably available technology to remove the information.

Senate Bill 900 would have made it voluntary for counties to remove the information. The same information would still exist on hard copies of the public documents to which anyone has access.

13 Comments

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  • dlb800 May 14, 2009

    Why don't you make the punishment for identity theft a little more severe. Something like, be convicted, spend the rest of your life working in hard labor. Make the criminals support their own prisons. If they choose not to work, then they choose not to eat. Problem solved.

  • carolinarox May 12, 2009

    Funny, the two people I know who have had their identity stolen had them stolen from American born and bred thieves. All personal information should be redacted from public records, both hard and soft copy.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT May 12, 2009

    I'm basically a law abiding citizen that watches where I visit and who I associate with. So, in general, I'm not worried about physical crime against my body or property. Common sense can go a LONG way. But the one crime I am paranoid about is Identity Theft. It can happen without me knowing for a long time. I shred EVERYTHING with my name and address on it. Don't care what it is, it gets shredded. No paper leaves my home with my info on it. And I'm VERY thorough with my computer security because of online transactions. But I can't stop someone from stealing from my mailbox or getting info from businesses I deal with. There has to be very stern laws on the books to make someone think twice before doing it. So I'm ALL for this bill, and any future law on Identity Theft. Its the one crime that can affect even the unsuspecting and very careful person.

  • Raleigh Boys May 12, 2009

    Not giving the one time offenders a second chance does not encourage the crime rate to drop either.

  • streetfightinman May 12, 2009

    Paul Revere, you are right on the money withg this one.
    We are the only country with open borders,crooked washington
    dems and repubs insist on doing nothing and, the US will be no more because, we have laws and they will not enforce them ,lets
    hope somebody steals there identity and, maybe then something will happen.Obama will do nothing about this either.

  • early exit Roy May 12, 2009

    What makes them any different than the ordinary tax payer? I am just as much a candiate for Identity Theft as they are. Take my info off the tax records also.

  • Raleigh Boys May 12, 2009

    Stalkers can easily find people in NC, thanks to the NC Board of Election's website voter information. Anyone can type in a name, and find out where they live. So if you pay extra to have your phone number unlisted because of your profession, well Joe the Stalker can still find you. IMO the details should be omitted there also.

  • time4real May 12, 2009

    how about Senators actually DOING SOMETHING!

  • speaking for myself May 12, 2009

    I am so glad to see more important issues came up before this ....like banning smoking from bars.

  • diwanicki May 12, 2009

    I tend to agree with treet007. I do my best to protect my personal info., but that doesn't mean someone isn't going to find away to get it.

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