The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts says his office is taking steps to guard against fake documents. Aftab Pureval's announcement comes after a CBS News report that revealed 11 forged court orders claiming to be from Hamilton County.
The orders were tied to reputation management companies, or companies who are paid to clean up bad reviews online. Pureval says legitimate firms will seek permanent injunctions against negative online reviews. But the CBS News report found bad actors are faking court orders around the country, including in Hamilton County, counting on no one checking to see if the documents are real.
Pureval says his office has launched two new initiatives to fight the scam. "All judicial orders will be stamped with an encrypted QR code that will allow them to be scanned and directed to the Hamilton County Clerk's website to verify the judicial order," he says. "That way parties can double-check to ensure the authenticity of all court documents."
There's also a new hotline (513-946-5696) and e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) where people can get verification on documents. "Nothing is more important to me than the integrity of our courts and our court records. For the safety of our community, it is critical that our citizens have faith in the accuracy of judicial orders and court documents," Pureval says.
At a Friday morning press conference, Pureval handed out copies of the 11 forgeries, along with a copy of a legitimate order. (As pictured above, the document labelled 1 is a fraud.)
"At the Clerk's office, we employ various tactics to ensure the authenticity of court documents," Pureval says. Those tactics include a bar code, stamps and a unique numbering system. In the fake order, the case number indicates it is from 2018, but the stamp shows it was filed in 2016.
His office has contacted other court clerks around the state to warn them.
The prosecutor's office is investigating who is behind the forged documents.