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How private is information disclosed in a personal bankruptcy?

Identity theft is on the rise as more information is contained in computer databases, easily accessible to experienced hackers. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that about seven percent of people in the U.S. who were 16 or older reported some form of identity theft in 2012. Many people may be reluctant to fill out bankruptcy documents because of the amount and nature of personal and financial information that is required to complete the filing process.

You may think: “If I’m filing for bankruptcy, I don’t have anything for a hacker to steal anyway”. But that isn’t true. Personal information isn’t limited to financial information.  As with any other type of information in a computer database, addresses, information about your employment and any number of other types of data can be accessed once a hacker has even one of your account numbers. Depending on what they intend to do with your information, they can follow the path from one small piece of information to the end of the trail they need to commit a crime.

So, given the risks of having any type of personal information in an electronic court database, what protections are available from the court once your information is entered into their system? The answer is: a lot. 

The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which also apply to bankruptcy filings in Kentucky, require that certain types of information must be redacted, or edited so that pertinent confidential information is blacked out or otherwise hidden from view, from court papers. Even information that is not required to be redacted can be hidden upon petition from the person filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy documents can be sealed, meaning that the court must grant a request to anyone seeking access to the documents.

In order to protect your personal information, it may be helpful to consult an attorney before filing for bankruptcy and consider having the attorney file the papers for you. He or she will know the minimum amount of information that must be submitted to the court which, in addition to the court’s privacy rules, can further protect your personal information from thieves and hackers.

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