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What do public records say about you?

By SANDEE DAVIES, Times Staff Writer
Published August 19, 2007


The clerks of court are the historians of our society. They document our lives from birth through court proceedings, mortgages, judgments and death. Without a record, much of the details of who we are would be lost.

Florida has more than 10-billion pages of official records, most of which are open to the public.

Frequently, sensitive information is in the public files, including Social Security, bank account and credit card numbers and other relevant data that can be used to steal our identity and wreak havoc.

Since 2002, anyone filing an official record cannot include private information in the file unless required by law.

Also, when the clerks accept an electronic record they must check for personal and financial account numbers in the electronic copies.

Unfortunately, all records filed before Oct. 1, 2002, are available in their entirety unless specified in the law.

Information can be protected by reviewing our own records and asking the clerk's office to redact, or black out, sensitive information.

Pinellas County Clerk of Circuit Court Ken Burke will discuss how to use the clerk's Web site to locate your records online and how to request that your protected information be redacted. Learn more about the role of the clerk in this redaction process and the steps being taken to simplify the process. There is no fee for this service.

Information that may be redacted includes Social Security, bank account, credit card, charge account and debit account numbers. Driver's license numbers may not be removed.

Official records images of mortgages, deeds, affidavits, agreements and financial statements are available on the Internet.

Images of the actual court orders are currently not online but are available at the clerk's office.

For more information, call Civil Court Records at 464-3267.

To learn more

Protect yourself

What: Learn to protect personal information that is included in public records.

When: 2 p.m. Monday

Where: Pinellas Park Public Library, 7770 52nd St. N.

Details: Registration is required in person at the Information/Reference Desk, or call 541-0719.