Cindy Lambert had no idea a simple speeding ticket could become such a nightmare.
An identity thief used her name and personal information to go on a $20,000 spending spree. The real surprise was just where the information came from — the county government.
Several residents of Hamilton County, Ohio (search), became victims of identity theft after their personal information, including their Social Security numbers, were posted on the Hamilton County Web site.
"Here I thought I had done all the right things," said Lambert. "We were taking the precautions ... doing what they say to do to protect your identity, and here my own county government handed it to the thief."
"I felt incredibly violated," said Lambert.
Lambert's problems began when personal information — including her Social Security number, picture and signature — from a speeding ticket she received appeared on the county's Web site.
"Everything that you would need to assume my identity was right there on that ticket," said Lambert.
According to Sgt. Joe Boyatt of the Blue Ash, Ohio (search), Police Department, once the department writes traffic citations, they are then scanned onto the Internet, where the suspect in Lambert's case gained access to her personal information.
Hamilton County was one of the first counties in the nation to scan and post most of its court documents online, a move that former Hamilton County clerk Jim Cissell (search) described as a time- and money-saving move for his office as well as citizens.
"It allowed people who could not afford to hire an attorney during working hours to access things," said Cissell. "It allowed them to research at home."
Cissell defended putting the court documents up on the county Web site.
"Since the court provides access, then the integrity of the records should be there and whatever is available at the courthouse should be available on the Internet," said Cissell.
Hamilton County Clerk Greg Hartmann (search) has begun removing all documents from the county's Web site that contain Social Security numbers, a process that could take until the end of August. According to Hartmann, the county has over 20 million pages of documents available online.
"Requesting a document with a Social Security number on it is going to require a trip to the courthouse," said Hartmann, who noted that when public-record laws were written they did not anticipate the Internet.
"It really calls for a statewide, maybe a nationwide solution on public records," said Hartmann. "And what should and shouldn't be in a public document."
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Steve Brown.