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Online Death Certificates Dropped Amid ID Theft Fears

Large Arizona county no longer posts public-record death certificates on its Website

Identity thieves don’t care if their victims are dead or alive. So one of the largest counties in Arizona has pulled public-record death certificates, which contain personal information valuable to fraudsters, from the County Recorder office’s Website.

Central Arizona’s Maricopa County, which has its county seat in Phoenix and a population of over 3 million people, mandates that some death certificates be recorded publicly as part of property ownership record update requirements.

"There is so much personal information on them: a mother's maiden name, what they died from," said Helen Purcell, the Maricopa County Recorder in a published report. Purcell said there had been complaints about the posting of death certificates for some time.

Purcell, like other local officials in Arizona, has been under extra pressure given the state has one of the highest rates of identity theft in the country. Purcell also has scrubbed Social Security numbers from all recorded documents over past few months, an undertaking that could cost around $5 million, according to the report.

Access to public-record death certificates now entails writing an official request, and unrecorded death certificates are still only available to family members and legal representatives of the deceased.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading