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Divorce Could Cost You More Than Your Marriage - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Divorce & Identity Theft

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We are often told to shred our sensitive documents, keep close tabs on our credit card accounts, and watch out for our social security number; but, one public document could be even more dangerous.

FBI identity theft expert Wayne Anderson told local law enforcement divorce papers could allow criminals access to millions of dollars worth of assets.

"Divorce papers are one of them that have a significant amount of info," Anderson said.

On these forms people list their name, address, social security number, their bank accounts,even their assets. That is why Anderson calls them a gold mine for criminals.

"You would be surprised how many people don't think about that," DeAnn Pladson, Family Attorney, said.

Pladson says there is something you can do to protect yourself.  The parties of the divorce can work up a redacted copy of their divorce papers and have that filed with public records. Since last year, lawyers have been required to file the documents that way. Before that, for one year, the public records office was responsible for keeping confidential information out of records. However, before 2009 there was no state requirement.

In a redacted document the social security number is crossed out, the dates of birth are crossed out, and account numbers are kept confidential.

"If someone were to come to me and say, you know, I was divorced in 2009. I would definitely recommend they go in and have that information redacted from the original document," Pladson said.

Those who investigate I. D. theft say people have to think about all of the ways crooks can take personal information and start safeguarding it.

"How are the criminals today targeting you? If you know how they're targeting you ultimately know how to protect yourself," Anderson said.

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