Watchdog: State site is a ID theft risk for public

Some business records available online through the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office contain the home addresses and Social Security numbers of corporate executives, and an identity-theft watchdog who found them said the office should cut off all access.

“I can’t understand why they don’t realize that they have stuff like this on the site,” said BJ Ostergren, who operates a Web site, http://www.theVirginiaWatchdog.com, which monitors personal information on Web sites. “You won’t find this crap online in Virginia. I’ve found hundreds of Social Security numbers of high-powered people.”

Personal identifiers should be removed from any state Web site, Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said.

Current filings, however, don’t allow for the dissemination of personal identifiers via the Web, said Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman.

The New Jersey company whose officers’ home addresses and Social Security numbers are available on the Web site wasn’t required to provide those details, he said.

“We never asked for that information,” Coolidge said. “I’m not sure why they determined they needed to send it to us in 1993.”

Several documents, however, do contain such identifiers, Ostergren said. She wants the secretary of state to shut down links to documents filed by companies.

Those links, however, provide history about corporate activity in the state and other public information, Coolidge said.

Most business documents are now filed electronically, and nothing allows officials to place personal information on the Web site, Coolidge said. Paper filings are now scrubbed for personal information before they are posted on the Web site, he said.

There’s no reason documents containing some personal information ought not be public for direct inspection in courthouses or state offices, but they shouldn’t be on the Web, Ostergren said.

“They shouldn’t be sitting in Nigeria digging through these records,” she said.

Ostergren approached King to look into the issue, and King said he hoped it could be cleared up before the January start of the Legislature.

“We want to be able to point to the office of the Secretary of State of Colorado as an example of how you protect that information,” King said.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office earlier this month pulled about 90,000 documents from its Web site after learning some of the documents contained identifying information.

Anyone who finds personal information on the Web site should contact the Business Division at 303-894-2200.


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