The Jackson- based Clarion Ledger reported a marked rise in identity theft in Mississippi. In 2007, the Jackson metro area wasn’t even ranked in identity theft complaints, but last year, it ranked 31st. The article cites many ways identity theft can occur. This situation should cause all lawyers to pause and think about how they are handling or requesting information in their cases. Here are some things to think about:
When preparing financial statements, subpoenas, agreements and other pleadings, do not provide the first five digits of social security numbers and only provide enough digits of bank account numbers for the parties themselves to distinguish accounts.
When your client’s financial, medical or other records are requested or subpoenaed, take steps to block or redact information which can be used for identity theft, such as social security numbers, names of close relatives, birthdays, etc.
Whenever possible seek to seal divorce or other family law cases so personal information cannot be obtained from the public record. In light of what is going on, more and more judges should be receptive to this.
Routinely shred all documents instead of throwing them away.