Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nice one Cherokee

ATLANTA -- A simple online search of a Cherokee County government web site revealed social security numbers posted for all to see – and it turns out, this is happening across the state.

Channel 2’s Tom Regan logged on to the Cherokee County web site, entered a few common names and within a few clicks was able to obtain social security numbers for complete strangers, courtesy of the IRS and the county court web site.

“I’m required by law not to alter the document and by law I cannot alter the document,” said Cherokee County Clerk of Courts, Patty Baker.

It applies to all county courts in Georgia – not just Cherokee. The result? People who have federal tax liens against them – sometimes for years as they dispute unpaid taxes – have their entire social security sitting out on the world wide web for anyone to see.

“I mean, everybody is talking about identity theft and now they do this. Why don’t they get in the business,” asked one man who says his information has been posted. He did not wish to be identified.

Actually, Cherokee County is taking initiatives to remove social security numbers from the federal tax documents they post on their web site. Officials claim they are one of the few counties in Georgia that are doing that in an effort to keep such personal information private.

“My clerks are instructed to black it out on the web site. We cannot alter the original document, so we have to make a copy of it, black it out and put that on the web site.

“If somebody gets it, and takes my identity and causes me any kind of financial pain I’m going to sue them for it,” said the man.

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