How a Change to a Bankruptcy Form Protects Debtors’ Social Security Numbers

The news is rife with stories of identity theft. Sometimes it’s difficult to prevent, like when a server at a restaurant copies down someone’s credit card information, tracks his or her address, and then begins making unauthorized purchases. Other times, the thieves engage in sophisticated hacking, or heists of medical clinics’ databases to commit medical identity theft. As a result of the proliferation of these practices, people are wisely more prudent about giving away their private information, especially since identity theft can lead people to bankruptcy. One way the bankruptcy courts are trying to help is by changing a bankruptcy form to prevent people from accidentally disclosing their Social Security numbers while filing bankruptcy, something that’s very much worth avoiding.

One of the things the Bankruptcy Code requires debtors to do is prove their identities. Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 1007(f) obligates debtors to file a “Statement of Social Security Number,” which the bankruptcy courts provide as “Official Form 21.“In most cases, debtors must submit the form with their petitions, but the handful of people who face involuntary bankruptcies have a 14-day period.

At the top of the form, the text reads in red letters, “Do not file this form as part of the public case file. This form must be submitted separately and must not be included in the court’s public electronic records. Please consult local court procedures for submission requirements.” This is a new addition to the form, which the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules adopted in December 2012. Prior to this, the form contained no such warning, and the unfortunate result would be that inevitably some debtors would file their Statements of Social Security Number in the public record.

Although few people—even identity thieves—don’t prowl the government’s electronic documents database for people who inadvertently provided their Social Security numbers in government filings, such a disclosure can cause serious problems for debtors. The process for applying for a new number is an unnecessary burden for people who are already in financial distress, but ensuring your fresh start and protecting your personally identifiable information is one more reason to entrust your case with an experienced Las Vegas bankruptcy lawyer.

For more questions about bankruptcy in Las Vegas, please feel free to contact an experienced Haines & Krieger Las Vegas bankruptcy attorney for a free initial consultation. Call us at 1-702-880-5554 to set up your free consultation.

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