Arizona authorities have stopped publishing copies of death certificates on a website over concerns that the information might be used in identity theft scams.
Maricopa County - which covers the state's largest city, Phoenix - discontinued the long-standing practice of posting digital copies of death certificates last month after complaints from the general public, the Arizona Republic reports. The publication of digital certificate of death notices, which are needed to complete certain real estate transactions, was designed to reduce bureaucracy but has attracted criticism over privacy issues for years. These concerns, along with more recent ID theft worries, have prompted a rethink.
"There is so much personal information on them: A mother's maiden name, what they died from," Helen Purcell, recorder for Maricopa County, explained.
Arizona suffers from one of the highest identity fraud rates in the US. Whether the detailed information on death certificates helped fuel this crime wave or whether more traditional dumpster diving was responsible is not immediately clear. Just the possibility of the macabre misuse of data on the deceased to obtain lines of credit was enough for authorities to discontinue the practice.
Would financial institutions extend lines of credit to those who it can easily be confirmed are already dead? Well, they've done worse. Still, the digital certs would certainly have made it easier for crims to find target an individual and find their deceased mother's maiden name.
Copies of death certificates can still be obtained, but only via an application requiring full contact details for an applicant and a signature verified by a notary. ®