It has come to my attention, that clients feel like they are being scammed by an outfit called DocketBird. According to their website, DocketBird is the most advanced, user-friendly application for accessing federal court case information. Basically, it appears the they mine data from PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) for their customers. PACER, an official website of the United States Government, provides electronic public access to federal court records. PACER charges nominal fees of $.08 per page up to 30 pages, and then free. So, is DocketBird a scam for bankruptcy filers?
When you file for bankruptcy, it is a public filing. People who file for bankruptcy may find their case or personal information on Google or other search engines. That said, usually it takes a little digging and a searcher needs to be motivated to find information. In other words, it doesn’t come up on a simple Google search. So, for the most part, the only people who will find out you filed for bankruptcy are those with whom you chose to share the news.
It has been reported to me that DocketBird contacts individuals who have filed for bankruptcy. These people tell me that DocketBird will remove their information from Google searches for a fee. In doing my own research, I found a couple of websites where people have raised complaints. I will add a disclaimer that I do not know the veracity of these claims but am only reporting on what I see and hear from clients.
DocketBird’s Response to Scam Allegations
And to be fair, I also found the following in response to online complaints:
“Hi, I’m the founder and CEO of DocketBird. I wanted to answer your question and give a bit of background about what we do. The bottom line is this: we do not charge people to remove their cases from DocketBird. DocketBird has over ten million cases and documents that we make freely available to the public. The overwhelming reaction that we’ve received from the public is positive — we have an enormous number of documents and cases that aren’t available for free anywhere else. But, as you can imagine, some companies and individuals don’t like having cases available online that pertain to them.
This is especially true if a company has been successfully sued, or if an individual has declared bankruptcy or been convicted of a federal crime. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. We want to fulfill our mission of making information freely available, and yet we also want to respect the fact that people want certain information to remain private. So here’s our policy: a party to a case can request us to remove their case at no charge by filling out a form that’s available on our website and mailing it to us. We review the form to ensure that the requestor really is a party to the case. If they are, we’ll remove the case, at no charge.”
“Despite having this policy, we sometimes hear from angry people who want their cases removed immediately, without having to fill out a form. We also get angry emails and phone calls from people who want us, in addition to removing their case, to proactively send an expedited removal request to Google, to ensure that the old version of the page disappears from Google immediately. If people really feel like they need that service, we do charge a fee for it.”
“Overall, dealing with all of this has been an enormous distraction from our core business, which is servicing law firms. In fact, we are losing money dealing with removal requests, as we have to pay someone to process the removals. The optional fee for expedited deindexing requests to Google has helped to recoup costs, but even what that is considered, this is not how DocketBird makes money.
Once again, DocketBird does not charge a fee for removing cases from our website. We remove cases for free, and we do so all the time. Here is a link to our help document that describes the process.”
This link does not work.
I tell my clients not to pay for this service. There is enough fear associated with bankruptcy. Is DocketBird a scam for bankruptcy filers? I would say it is if they are indeed playing off of these fears by proactively reaching out to people. At the end of the day, I repeat that the chances of people finding out about your bankruptcy is really small.
Please call me if you have any questions about this blog or other bankruptcy concerns. I will happily discuss your concerns.