Printable Version

Public Records

Your Public Profile

Everyone knows that you should never give out information like your credit card number, real name, address or phone number to anyone while Online. But have you ever considered what happens to that information in the "real world?"

Aside from the tactics that marketers might use to get your information, many activities that may seem an ordinary part of your daily life actually collect personal and identifiable data about you. Further, that data is available to members of the general public.

Public Records Sources

Since public records are available to anyone, it is important to know where and how these records about you are collected.

Voter records
Sure, it might be your right as an citizen of the United States to vote, but that information supplied on your ballot is public record information. All anyone has to do in order to obtain your personal information contained on a voter registration form is to visit, call or mail the Board of Elections for the county in which you registered.

Many companies also purchase and organize voter registration records and sell them to politicians, people finder Web sites, private investigators and skip tracers. It is possible to get state of residence, election district, age, gender, income level, voting history, address and other uniquely identifiable information all from voter registration records.

Property/assessors records
Anyone can find out exactly what your house it worth, when it was last sold for and the date of purchase. Every county in the United States has a office of the County Assessor which maintains records for all properties and land in that county. Mainly, the County Assessor keeps track and assesses property values as a means to provide that information to the county treasurer. In turn, the treasurer uses this information for property tax billing purposes.

Information that is readily available in County Assessor's records in name and address of the property owner, names of previous owners, dates the property was sold, how much property taxed was assessed, and what parcel is was or currently is used as.

Boat Registration Records
If you own a boat, your state of residence may disclose your personal information contained in boat registration records.

Boat registration records can include, full name of owner, address of registered owner, value of boat and possible history of repairs.

Business license records/corporations/fictitious business filings
Check the classifieds of any local newspaper section and you will find a section titled "public filings." In this section of the paper you can find the names of individuals or corporations that have filed for a Fictitious Business Name (FBN).

Other names that the FBN is known by include, "Trade Name," "Assumed Name" or "Doing Business as (DBA)." Basically, FBN filings are used by individuals to certify that they will be conducting business not as themselves or under their name, but as the name of their business.

FBN records contain the name of the person of company that filed, business name and address, owner name and address and the date, location and file number for the record.

Professional License Records
Each state maintains a record of individuals and companies that are licensed to perform certain tasks or duties. Usually individuals must complete some form of training or education and pass a state exam before becoming certified. The best example would be medical doctors. In addition to completing medical school, each doctor must pass sate certified board examinations before he/she can be licensed and practice medicine in that particular state. It is possible for people to be certified professionals in more than one state.

If you are a licensed professional, your personal information is publicly available. Many states are even making this information available Online and free of charge.

Professional license information will vary by state and may contain, first and last name, type of license and license number, zip or address of residence or practice, license status and record of infractions, date of issue and school attended.

Bankruptcy records
When businesses or individuals file bankruptcy in Federal courts, a record is kept. These records are available at each states National Archive center. Depending in which state bankruptcy was filed; there may be one or more location where these records are housed. It is also possible to order these records through postal mail or Online in some states.

Bankruptcy records show the name of individuals filing, the city, state and date of filing, a full list of creditors, total amount discharged, final decree or Order of Dismissal.

Tax Liens
If a business or individual owes back taxes to the IRS a lien may be put on property or assets owned by the business or individual to secure payment of the tax debt. These liens may be imposed for taxes owed on real property, personal property or as a result of not paying income tax.

Tax lien information records include name of the individual tax payer or business, information on the property owned by the tax payer, overdue tax balance, address, telephone number and income of the taxpayer.

A judgment is the final decision of the court at the conclusion of a lawsuit. The result of the judgment might include terms for financial compensation for plaintiffs or sentencing of an individual if it is a criminal case.

Judgment records can contain, name of parties involved in litigation, judgment amount, and nature of conviction if it was a court case, case number, name of individual convicted and date of conviction.

Phone Listings
Though it is possible to pay a monthly fee to the phone company so that your phone number is not listed in directory assistance or kept private, it is still possible for individuals and companies to get the information associated with your phone number.

If you have ever filled out a warranty card or Internet form that asked for your name, address and phone number your "private" phone number could now be a matter of public record. If for any reason you give your phone number and address out to any other agency than the phone company that you pay to keep that information confidential, they may and most often sell that information to other directory services.

Aircraft Registrations
The Federal Aviation Administration requires that all aircraft owners file an affidavit of ownership. Each aircraft must also pass an airworthiness certification. The FAA allows users to search aircraft ownership records by name on their Web site.

Aircraft registration records contain the "N-Number" of the aircraft, serial number, manufacturer name and model number, airworthiness, prior owners, other registered aircraft as well as the name of the business of individual owner of the aircraft and their address.

Hunting Licenses
Much like professional licenses, many states require that hunters undergo a safety course and pass a test in order to hunt wild game animals legally. Hunters must also renew their licenses on an annual basis.

Hunting license records include, name of hunter, address, and date of application and in some instances a phone number.

Fishing License
Though it is a license, most states do not require that a course or exam be passed before issuing a fishing license. Most often, fisherman must provide name, address and phone number and pay a small fee to obtain a license.

These licenses are also available for review and list the name and address and possibly phone number of the person obtaining a license to fish.

Drivers Records
Before getting behind the wheel in any state, you must become a licensed driver. To become a licensed driver you must pass both a written and practical driver's examination. After successful completion of these tests, you are then issued a license with a number that will uniquely identify you. Many people that do not drive also choose to get state issued ID cards that look much like driver's licenses and use a unique number to identify you as well.

Driver licenses and ID cards are issued and regulated by the Department of Motor Vehicles for each state. Though laws may vary slightly by state, the type of record maintained and collected are the same.

In addition to your driving record, a lot of your personal information is also contained within each state's Driver's records databases.

This information may include your full name, social security number, birth date and legal presence, current address and phone number as well as information about your medications and vision or possible medical conditions.

It is important to note that all information collected by the motor vehicle authority in each state becomes public record. Members of the public may copy and examine these records. However inspection and copying of records may be limited depending on the "use policy" of your state.

Vehicle Registrations
Vehicles that are driven, parked, being moved, in a parking facility or left by the side of a highway must be registered in your state of residence. If you register a vehicle your personal information will gathered and used for the purposes of identifying and maintaining ownership records for the vehicle. If you fail to provide the personal information required your state may not let you register your vehicle.

Much like driver's records, all information collected by the motor vehicle authority in each state becomes public record. Members of the public may copy and examine these records. However inspection and copying of records may be limited depending on the "use policy" of your state.

Criminal Records (some contain address information)
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies maintain a database that keeps track of an individual's criminal convictions, including traffic infractions. This is commonly referred to as a "criminal record."

This database of criminal records assists law enforcement in identifying individuals and to help find possible suspects in criminal investigations. Personal information contained in these records includes, fingerprints, list of tattoos and scars, social security number, address, phone number and physical description of the individual. Some states and federal agencies even keep a DNA profile of criminals.

All of the data contained in these criminal records are available to the general public. Though some agencies may only provide the name and date of birth with the listing of criminal offenses for an individual, some agencies also provide addresses.

Sex Offenders
All off the 50 US states require that individuals convicted of sex related crimes against a victim that is a minor or a sexually violent offense register with their state of residence.

Though sex offender registration laws and statutes vary by state, it is not uncommon for the registered sex offenders to keep the state appraised of his/her current address, notify the neighborhood of their sex offender status, not to reside within a certain distance of schools and be subject to random inspections of their residences by law enforcement.

Almost all US states now provide Online access to a sex offender database. Sex offender information available on these sites usually includes a photo of the offender, list of tattoos and scars, address where the offender resides and the crime or crimes for which the individual was convicted.

In addition to many of the state databases, a number of companies also provide sex offender data as well. These companies let you search by address or zip code and let you map offenders in your area.

Opt in Databases (online/offline forms)
When you register for any product, service, magazine or Web site it is important that you carefully read the privacy policy for the entity that you are registering with.

Many companies put a clause in their privacy policy which give them permission to sell or give your data to other companies once your submit or mail the form to them.

Many of these forms contain addresses, full name, phone number and other personal information that is now a matter of public record because you "gave" this information away.

With the proliferation of the Internet you need to know that when you get something for FREE it really is not free on the NET. What you usually end up giving is your email address, name, address, phone and perhaps other personal identifying information.

Most people know this today and simply use what most of us call a disposable email address for just these things. It's a good practice to starting doing the same thing with your address and using that Mail drop address.

Another thing to also realize is that people are now instead of giving their home phone giving their cell phone thinking nothing of it. Well that's not a good idea because these phones are being collected by all kinds of marketers and public record collectors and creating some very thorough searching abilities using this data. They are able to identify regular phone landlines, voice over IP's and cell phones. These area codes and prefixes are easily identifiable and being collected in large numbers since people are unwittingly providing this data to web sites every day.

How to Minimize Your Public Record Profile

Create a Trust
It is actually fairly simple to make yourself "disappear" from many public records databases. Many leaders in the public records industry recommend creating a trust. In basic terms a trust is a type of arrangement that lets businesses, organizations or individuals to own and manage property or money for another person or entity.

Since a trust which is managed by "trustees" for the benefit of, let's say you, it is best to name your trust in way which would not be easily associated with your. For instance if your last name was Johnson, it would be best to name your trust "1234 Trust" instead of "Johnson Family Trust."

By having a trust, all your property and assets will be owned and managed by the trustees under the name of the trust. This means that if anyone was to search public records for ownership of property they would find out that "1234 Trust" is the registered owner and not you the individual

Establish A Corporation Or LLC
Much like a trust, you can use a business or corporation name to register your assets or property. For instance, you might register the owner of your personal residence as "1234 LLC". This way, you can keep you personal address out of the databases and use a PO Box or mailboxes etc for driver's license and other records.

DMV and Voter Records
In many states, the DMV requires that a physical address be on file, however, some also give you the opportunity to have a 2nd option to mail your correspondence.

Whenever POSSIBLE when you receive DMV renewals, voters registration requests, assessor tax bills, etc.. you can start thinking about making one central address for you that is not your actual address, but simply a place where you can redirect your personal information to point to, like a PO Box our mail outlet center.

The more you can start doing this, the more you can start to minimize your risk of your information being compromised. If thieves can't find your information or where you are actually located this can reduce the possibility of your personal information being hijacked or stolen by these thieves.