From the office: When fraud clashes with family history

By Editor, 24 July 2014 - 1:47pm

The suspension of Irish civil registration certificates was a disappointing blow, says editor Sarah Williams

Thursday 24 July 2014
Sarah Williams, editor
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The suspension of Ireland’s new enhanced civil registration index, just days after it had gone live, was a blow for more than just those researching Irish ancestors.

Many family historians researching English ancestors were looking at what was happening in Ireland in the hopes that our Government here might learn something. Unfortunately, the only lesson that has come out of this is that in this technological age, personal data is a minefield.

I sometimes get readers writing in asking why the English and Welsh civil registration indexes only go up to 2005 online but can be accessed up to more recent dates at selected libraries. It was decided not to put this data online after 2005 to combat mass trawling for information such as mother’s maiden name that is used by so many banks as a security question.

That means that only those born after 2005 are safe from having their mother’s maiden name public (although FreeBMD births don’t go up to 2005 so fraudsters would have to buy a subscription to one of the genealogy sites). Delighted though I am that nine-year-olds can sleep soundly at night in the knowledge that their bank accounts are secure, I’ve not heard of any situations where identity theft or bank fraud has been committed because of this information being out in the public domain.

I’m afraid that it is going to become an increasing fact of life that our personal data is going to be out in the public domain and people should be wary about what they choose to use as a security password. Why not assign your mother a different maiden name for banking purposes? Better still, why are banks still using this as a security identifier?

I hope that the Irish civil registration data comes back online, even if it does come back in a reduced form. I also hope that this won’t stop Ireland from going down the Scottish route of making its civil BMDs available to purchase instantly as a digital version.

With continuous pressure from the family history community, and successful models elsewhere, surely it will just be a matter of time before the GRO follows suit.

What do you think about the suspension of Irish BMD records? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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