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News10NBC Investigates: NYS court job application link reveals personal information, Court says 'site is secure'

Berkeley Brean
Updated: February 13, 2020 01:20 AM
Created: February 12, 2020 06:50 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — When the agency that runs the court system in New York wanted to hire court officers this week, it posted an application form. But when some of our viewers clicked a link to the form, they found enough information to steal a family's identity. 

"If you hadn't called we really wouldn't have known," Mark Hindman said.

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It was Hindman's wife who filled out the job application to be a court officer. They did it together Monday at their home in Greece. But when other people clicked on the link, they found something else.

"We got a blank application," Hindman said. "They got my wife's application."

Three people contacted News10NBC about this.

They say when they clicked on the link to the application on the New York State Office of Court Administration's website, what appeared was not a blank application form but Elizabeth Hindman's application with her name, social security number, address, phone number and email.

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Does this look familiar?"

Rachel Knight: "Yes, that looks like the form I saw exactly."

Rachel Knight saw Hindman's application from her home in Canandaigua and alerted us. She found the link when the News10NBC web story on the court jobs that was shared on the News10NBC Facebook page.

"I was worried that somebody would see this and steal her identity," Knight said.

"And I was like oh my God! This is somebody's personal information,' Danielle Cunningham said.

Cunningham contacted us when saw the same thing from her home in Watertown. When I reached her on Skype, she told me she thought it was a one time mistake.

"So I went out of Facebook, went back in and tried it again and the same thing came back," she said.

Mark Hindman wonders how many other people saw it.

"Thankfully some people came forward or we would never know," Hindman said.

As soon as we saw Danielle and Rachel's warnings on Facebook, News10NBC removed the link and we immediately alerted the Office of Court Administration.

That was Monday night at 11:30.

Tuesday morning, in an email, the office thanked us for letting them know.

I contacted the court at 12:26 p.m. Wednesday and I shared a redacted copy of Hindman's application.

At 4:46 p.m., I received this email from Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the OCA:

"This was brought to our attention yesterday. It is a unique situation that we will continue to monitor, but we are confident that it not endemic, and the site is secure. So far, we have had more than 50,000 applicants show interest in the test to become a New York State Court Officer. 

Additionally, we spent a good amount of time investigating this issue yesterday as soon as it was reported to us and do not feel that there is anything at all on our end that could cause this to happen. 

Applicants should feel confident that their personal information is safe and secure, and as such, we will remain vigilant as the application process continues."


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