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Why Did Texas DPS Wait So Long To Notify 3,000 Identity Theft Victims?

You didn't care about your identity, did you?

Stealing a credit card through a laptop concept for computer hacker, network security and electronic banking security

3,000 Asian American citizens living in Texas are being notified this month that they have been targeted by an organized crime group that has sold real copies of their driver’s licenses for identity theft. Their customers, who buy real licenses with pictures and identities that could believably be them, can then go on and use that document to obtain more documents, this time with their own real photo and the stolen name.

So how did the organized crime group initially get the real driver’s licenses? They simply bought them from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Yep. So why isn’t this a bigger story? The crime group, which remains unnamed but we know is based in New York, worked through the website to order at least 3,000 licenses. The criminals were able to get the personal data of Asian American Texans via the “dark web” and then use that personal info to answer security questions and gain access to their government portals, allowing them access to order “replacement” licenses, which cost about $11 each.

“The identity questions could be something you may have shared with a credit card company or something like your mother’s maiden name, your first vehicle that you ever had, your favorite sport,” DPS director Steve McCraw said. “[The thieves] use those questions to be able to get into and purchase a replacement driver’s license on Asian-sounding names. And from that, get a replacement driver’s license sent to an address of their choosing.”

McCraw told a Texas House committee late last month that the incident was discovered in December. However, they have only begun notifying the identity theft victims recently, in early March. Which is wild, right? There’s so much permanent damage a criminal can do with your stolen identity in those few months. How could the Texas DPS keep that info private when the victims could have been taking steps to protect themselves?

Some Asian Americans are, justifiably, wondering if Texas’ lackluster response to protecting their identities and their welfare has anything to do with the xenophobia and anti-Asian hate prevalent throughout the border state, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. A proposed law in Texas would even bar Chinese immigrants from buying homes in the state.

“It really goes to show that our state government does not see us and does not care about us and does not prioritize our welfare,” Lily Trieu, executive director of Asian Texans for Justice, told NBC News of the state’s limited response to such a huge violation.

McGraw, however, said the government is not looking at the incident as a “data breach,” since no one actually hacked into their website; they used data to exploit a “vulnerability” in the website. But, I don’t know, that kind of sounds like a breach to me.

(BrianAJackson/Getty Images)

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