County changing policy after employee mails official documents to wrong person

By: Jason Stoogenke

Updated:

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. - A local government office responsible for people's personal information is changing the way it does things after an employee sent official documents to the wrong person.

A Charlotte woman, who is so concerned about her privacy that she asked Channel 9 not to share her identity, ordered two certified copies of her marriage license from the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds.

The Register of Deeds mailed them, but to a complete stranger -- Mike Venditti. 

"I was like, 'How did that happen?' I had no idea that somebody else had received my information,” the woman said. "It kind of just (raises) questions (about) their ability to make sure that the information stays protected. It certainly should never have gotten into anybody else's hands."

Venditti works in computers and cybersecurity is high on his radar, so he immediately reached out to Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke on Facebook.

"This is not acceptable," Venditti said. "This is Mecklenburg County. What do they got? A million people, 900,000 people? They need to do better."

Marriage licenses don't have Social Security numbers, but they do have names, addresses, signatures, and mothers' maiden names, which, a lot of times, is the security question for financial accounts.

The Register of Deeds emailed Stoogenke, writing, it's adding "one more step ... to ensure this never happens again."

"We regret the error that took place," the Register of Deeds said. "Though this is an extremely rare happening, there was still an internal review to determine if any additional steps could further safeguard the process. As a result, I did provide for one more step to be added to the current procedure to ensure this never happens again."

Stoogenke asked what that step is and the office said, from now on, a second employee will "check the information before it goes out."

"Although this certainly should not have happened, it should be made known that the majority of the records maintained at the Register of Deeds office are public and the information mistakenly sent to Mr. Venditti could have been provided to anyone, upon request," the office also said. 

While this is true, it should be noted that only certain people can get a certified copy of a marriage license. 

In this case, Venditti wasn't one of them.

The Register of Deeds office houses birth certificates, death certificates and marriage licenses. 

Earlier this year, Mecklenburg County had a more serious privacy breach. It sent Channel 9 and another media outlet a compact disc with personal information on more than 1,200 patients who sought medical help at county clinics.

Stoogenke recommends that to protect yourself, in all cases: Keep an eye on your accounts and if you notice anything unusual, freeze your credit. That way, if people get your information, they can't cash in as easily.

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