The Online Records Issue in Virginia

The Virginia legislature has voted to allow our personal records which are recorded in the circuit court clerk’s offices to be accessed over the internet.

Personal records like the following:

Final divorce decrees, marriage licenses, name change documents

All types of deeds, deeds of trust (mortgage papers), credit line deeds of trust

Notary commissions

Wills, lists of heirs, lists of inventories of estates (all probate)

Tax liens (state and federal), child support enforcement liens, student loan liens

Judgments (like for traffic fines, etc.)

Uccs (financing statements)

Powers of attorney

The clerks call those records “land records” which is totally a misnomer!

Our records were filed in the clerk’s office for “safe-keeping” but it turns out the “images” of those records will be put on the internet for “anyone” who wants to get to them 24/7. In some places they are already online such as Fairfax County, Prince William County, Arlington County, Loudoun County, City of Danville, City of Martinsville, Carroll County, Pulaski County, Wise County, City of Norton, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and possibly a couple of others like Rockingham and Stafford. It’s a safe bet that the majority of the citizens in those counties/cities don’t even know it….

Six items that should not be (but are) on the internet in those records are: ssns, minor children’s names, mother’s maiden names, date of birth, signatures, or financial account/loan #s. The clerk’s claim they don’t have the money to redact those items out of millions of records.

Well, then don’t put them on the internet!

In Virginia, “anyone” can (and will be able to) get into those records if they sign up, pay a fee and get a password, but should “anyone” be able to sit in his/her home and read people’s final divorce decrees and find out who gets the kids, who gets the car, what child support is, or where visitation is and get the parents’ ssns? How about your signature? Should “anyone” from the privacy of his home/office be able to “capture” the image of your signature?

If someone wants to see the records they should have to drive to the courthouse to look at them when the clerk’s office is open – not sit in their home with friends and get into the records 24/7. What is to prevent someone from sharing their password? Nothing! What is to prevent someone or several people from using someone’s computer? Nothing! We don’t have home computer police…yet! And what will prevent someone from “hacking” into a clerk’s site? Nothing! There is no such thing as a truly secure website...

A clerk takes an oath to protect those records but once “anyone” accesses them from the privacy of their home/office, they can make as many copies as they want and do anything with those copies. However, it is highly unlikely someone would pay 50 cents a copy at the clerk’s office when they could make them on their home printer for free. Most people will not take off from work to go to a clerk’s office…

Tell your friends to stay alert to this “land records” issue because it’s certain our legislators aren’t watching out for us. Every senator voted last session to have these records all over Virginia online by July 1, 2006. See next article…

Let your legislator hear from you. Tell him to keep our records off the internet! Spread the word! Tell your friends and get them to write or call their delegate and senator today! These records should only be available at the courthouse.

Here’s the code of Virginia section dealing with how they have to be open to “anyone.”