Government Web Sites Make Identity Theft Easy

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Want a stranger's Social Security number? How about his or her age, birth date, address and eye color?

According to the Washington Post, all of the above can be found on official documents posted online by various state, county and municipal governments.

The Post was able, for example, to get former Secretary of State Colin Powell's Social Security number by paying $25 to access an unspecified Web site run by Virginia's Fairfax County.

On a Texas land-records site, it found that of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman.

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Since both Powell and Aikman's full names, birthdates and birthplaces are already known, it would be easy for identity thieves to set up credit-card accounts in their names.

Social Security numbers and other vital information are found on many documents pertaining to land transactions, civil and criminal court cases and sometimes even traffic tickets — all matters of public record, and often easily viewed online.

Laws banning the online posting of Social Security numbers are patchy. Courts and governments have slowly moved to no longer put them up on the Internet, but many still do, and purging the information from older documents is basically impossible.

In one Loudon County, Va., summons regarding an unregistered dog issued less than two months ago, the document detailed the owner's name, Social Security number, birth date, age, race, eye color, address and driver's license number.

• Click here to read the full story in the Washington Post.