Board has questions about identity theft protection fee
“You have a ton of documents over there that have full social security numbers on them that are available to somebody who could do identity theft,” said District 4 Supervisor Brian Dahle.
Signed by the governor in October 2007, the bill gives the Board of Supervisors the authority to add $1 to the fee for recording a document to cover the costs of blacking out the numbers. Boards have until June 1 to impose the fee increase under the Social Security Number Truncation Program. The program must be complete by 2017.
However, the Lassen County board wants some questions answered before it imposes the fee.
“I kind of resent the idea that we’re being asked to, once again, cough up another dollar to satisfy a state mandate,” District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said.
“People that I know that have had identity theft would be glad to pay a dollar per copy to keep it safe if it came from there,” Dahle said, “because it really screws up their lives.”
Chapman agreed identity theft is a serious problem, but he said the state response is too little, too late and the problem will just get bigger.
“If it’s designed to address that concern and that threat, they’ve done a pretty lousy job of doing it,” he said. “And somebody needs to say that.”
District Attorney Bob Burns said he does not recall ever having prosecuted anyone for identity theft from public records in Lassen County.
Burns said most identity theft cases he files involve someone using a false identity to avoid a warrant arrest on outstanding charges.
The bill requires counties to systematically cleanse the documents “recorded before ID theft became so prevalent,” County Counsel R. Craig Settlemire said at the board’s Tuesday, March 11 meeting.
Settlemire said the fee is not really directly related to recording new documents.
“When we impose a charge we have to demonstrate that that charge relates to the service that’s being provided,” Settlemire said. “This is a charge that’s going to be imposed on documents that will be recorded in the future to correct documents that have been recorded in the past.”
If the board does not impose the fee, the county counsel said, it won’t have any way to recover the costs of blacking out the records.
In addition to the cost of having someone black out, or redact, the numbers and create a public record copy of each official recorded document, the bill also requires the county auditor to conduct two reviews to prove the county used the money from the $1 fee only for the SSN truncation program.
Chapman said the county staff is already overburdened.
“So do you use your existing staff to do the job … or do we hire additional staff to be able to augment existing staff to get the extra work done?” Chapman said.
Hiring someone to do the work involves extra costs such as office space, desks and a computer, he said.
Auditor Karen Fouch said the program will generated an estimated $3,000 a year, “which probably isn’t enough to cover the costs of implementing the program but the legislation does say that it’s a state mandate so there’s a possibility that at some time in the future we would be reimbursed by the state for the costs.”
Chapman coughed in response to Fouch’s statement and said “I hope I live long enough to see that one.”
Dahle asked how much work the recorder’s office can get done for $3,000 a year and if the county will finish redacting the SSNs by 2017.
“I don’t know. We’ll find out. I can’t tell you,” answered County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen.
“If we don’t pass the resolution, are we going to have to perform the task anyway and just not collect the bucks?” asked Board Chairman and District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson.
Chapman said nobody had been able to answer that question.
Supervisors Bob Pyle and Lloyd Keefer said they weren’t excited about the idea and Keefer’s motion to approve the SSN truncation program died for lack of a second.
Hanson directed county staff to take the board members’ comments, express their dissatisfaction to state legislators and bring the measure back for the board for reconsideration at some time in future.
Settlemire said he would research the consequences of not enacting the fee and the actual cost of the work and bring the information back before June 1.
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