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Instead of wasting space on falsehoods, your paper and its readers would have been better served had your reporter strongly pointed out that everyone who has any documents recorded in a circuit court clerk's office will soon have their records/lives made available via the Internet to anyone — records like final divorce decrees, name change documents, deeds, mortgages, wills, powers of attorney, judgments, tax liens, mechanics liens, financing statements (UCCs), overdue student loans, etc.

Those documents are called "land records" because they relate to title of land and are filed among the books in the clerks' offices and contain, in many instances, Social Security numbers, minor children's names, mother's maiden names, financial account numbers and signatures. And if someone's SSN is on their mortgage papers, on a judgment/lien, or in their final divorce decree, then it's going to be available in anyone's home. A clerk has no power to alter a record, so if the SSN is on a public record, then that's the way it's going online.

Unless people get involved and get Virginia legislators to stop this next January during the next General Assembly session, then every Virginia county will have them on by July 1, 2006, and not just the dozen or so presently making them available online. I believe people who want to go digging in those records should have to travel to the courthouse to do it — not just sit in their homes or office and pull them up on the Internet 24/7.

It's a shame that adults and children will be put at risk of identity theft, burglary, pedophiles and stalking just because our legislators don't "get it," and neither do the clerks and others who are pushing this online records scheme. Having these records available online is just spoon-feeding criminals.

Betty "BJ" Ostergren, Founder
The Virginia Watchdog

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