Feb. 28, 2023- The Texas Department of Public Safety was tricked into shipping at least 3,000 Texas driver’s licenses to a Chinese organized crime group that targeted Asian Texans.
The criminal organization was then selling the licenses, obtained using the personal information of Texas drivers, to people in the country illegally, DPS Director Steve McCraw said.
The thieves used the state’s government portal, Texas.gov to fraud the DPS agency. DPS discovered the scheme back in December and has stated that they will be sending out letters of apology to all of the victims that were involved with this fraud. More victims are still being identified.
The criminal organization was not named by DPS at this moment. The organization was able to get a hold of the Texas driver’s licenses by pulling personal data on several individuals with Asian surnames from the “dark web” and other underground data-trading portals.
The info given to the organization from the dark web was then used to correctly answer any password security questions on the Texas.gov website. Stolen credit cards were used to purchase duplicate copies of active licenses. These replacement licenses cost $11 per license.
The license theft investigation spans roughly four separate states, also including fraudulent licenses duplicated from victims. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are also investigating the fraud in hopes of preventing more victims.
DPS declined to discuss specific details of the investigation, including whether arrests had been made in connection with the Texas thefts. However several subjects have been identified in this criminal enterprise.
The problem was first detected in December when a third-party Texas.gov payment vendor “alerted DPS to an increase in customers challenging credit card charges for online transactions”. The credit cards used to buy the fraudulent copies were also stolen, authorities said.
DPS was asked whether the fact that Asian Americans were being targeted would constitute a hate crime.
McCraw, without committing either way, said they appeared to be targeted because their names and photos would most closely resemble the people the syndicate would be selling the licenses to, according to what the agency’s investigation has uncovered so far.
Letters to the victims are set to go out later this week explaining that their licenses have been used fraudulently, the victims cases will be set as priority. Also, the department will send affected Texas Residents replacement licenses free of charge.