ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Police say at least 50 people from around Albuquerque who had their identities stolen had something in common: they've all been to the same place in Texas.
Albuquerque Police Department investigators say the criminals were looking up public information to steal identities.
"I went home, pulled a credit report and sure enough. Two accounts had been opened up in my name," said Todd Nelson of Rio Rancho.
Last fall APD got a tip that led to the arrest of 11 suspects allegedly involved in stealing identities. Police say were opening credit card accounts and selling whatever they bought on the black market for meth.
"They bought a Bulova watch," Nelson said. "The other was Desert Rat Off Road. They had $1,595 worth of work done, and I don't know what was done."
Police say it was how the gang stole identities that seemed odd: they were using public records on a county clerk's office website.
The information was readily available. All that needed to be done was to type in a name to get birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers.
"The female offender told us how to do it," said APD Officer Tasia Martinez. "It took her about 30 seconds to get into the computer and show us how to get the information."
The website belongs to Tarrant County, Texas, the home Forth Worth. Most of the victims had some sort of connection there.
The criminal complaint says the suspects would search the site through the "divorces" section until they found divorce papers showing Social Security numbers.
As for Nelson, he says he's only been to Forth Worth twice, more than a decade ago, and it wasn't for a divorce. He doesn't know why his information was on a county web site there.
"I didn't even use my own personal credit card," said Nelson.
Having that risky information on that website was no mistake. It was Tarrant County's policy.
Now the site is being purged of 750,000 sensitive documents that belong to people from all over the country.
APD says it's notified everyone from the Albuquerque area who fell victim to those identity thieves.
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