Your Privacy Rights During Bankruptcy

Some people who struggle with overwhelming debt choose not to file bankruptcy because they fear the loss of their private information. This is a legitimate concern because bankruptcy is a public record.

Bankruptcy documents do contain sensitive personal information such as:

  • personal address
  • Social Security number
  • tax identification numbers
  • bank account information
  • listing of all property
  • listing of all debts

If you struggle with debt and are considering bankruptcy, you should not worry about privacy loss. Bankruptcy laws have built-in privacy protections.

Bankruptcy and Privacy

In crafting the bankruptcy code, lawmakers understood the sensitive nature of financial information in bankruptcy records. Bankruptcy Rule 9037 was enacted and states:

  1. Privacy Protection For Filings Made with the Court

(a) Redacted Filings. Unless the court orders otherwise, in an electronic or paper filing made with the court that contains an individual’s Social Security number, taxpayer identification number, or birth date, the name of an individual, other than the debtor, known to be and identified as a minor, or a financial-account number, a party or nonparty making the filing may include only:
(1) the last four digits of the Social Security number and taxpayer-identification number;
(2) the year of the individual’s birth;
(3) the minor’s initials; and
(4) the last four digits of the financial account number.

The bankruptcy court places the burden of redacting information on the filer. A bankruptcy attorney can ensure all your sensitive financial information is redacted when they file your bankruptcy case. Although your bankruptcy filing will be public record, lawmakers have enacted protections that obscure access to the information. Someone wanting to find out about your bankruptcy would have to make a concerted effort.

To get a physical copy, they would have to go to the bankruptcy court in which you filed and request the clerk to access your file. To get an electronic copy, they must first create an account with the federal judicial system’s electronic document repository known as Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Then they would have to search for your file and pay a fee to access the documents.

Because of this protection of obscurity, the general public, such as your family, friends, neighbors and employer, are unlikely to find out you filed for bankruptcy unless you tell them.