NY-Based Chinese Crime Organization Steal Texans Identity
By: Sheena Rodriguez | February 27th, 2023
During a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Colonel Steven McCraw, was questioned by chairwoman Mary Gonzales (Dist. 75 – D) about an alleged social engineering attack of the DPS online license and identification program (Texas.gov).
According to Col. McCraw, a loophole in the DPS website was located by a New York-based Chinese criminal organization and utilized to apply for a replacement Texas-issued driver’s license with the intention of furnishing recent Chinese nationals that have entered the US illegally with falsified state-issued licenses.
McCraw stated that the duplicated identities appear to have targeted Texans with names he described as "Asian sounding," which would potentially suffice for the perpetrator's identity in other states.
According to McCraw and Lt. Col. Jeff Williams, the criminal scheme includes activity spanned across 4 other states. Additionally, McCraw and Williams stated the agency began conversations with DIR (Department of Information Resources) and federal partners such as HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) beginning in December 2022. McCraw explained that with a falsified Texas-issued license, a perpetrator could utilize that id to obtain other identifying documents in another state.
Currently, national identification systems cannot verify if an individual has two licenses in the same state, an issue that McCraw anticipates will change with the full implementation of the Real ID Act in 2024-2025.
Representative Gonzales, chairwoman of the subcommittee, inquired about the number of Texans impacted by this breach, to which McCraw and Williams stated that so far, roughly 3,000 citizens or legal residents' identification have been victimized. Rep. Gonzales asked Col. McCraw if impacted Texans had been notified; Lt. Col. Williams responded by saying that, as of now, victims have not been advised.
McCraw explained that the criminal organization harnessed information from the dark web and, by social engineering, to obtain "ideology question" information such as an individual's mother's maiden name or favorite sports team. That information was then used to open a Texas.gov account and request a replacement license sent to the perpetrator's address.
Earlier in February, the NY Post reported that Chinese nationals crossing illegally across the US southern border have increased over 700% compared to apprehension in 2021. With growing tensions between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and an unprecedented assault on the border of the US and Texas, this strategic plan orchestrated by the Chinese criminal organization should raise several concerning alarms.
Many Americans vividly remember the horrific attacks that killed over 2,000 innocent Americans on September 11, 2001. The 9/11 Commission Report that followed years after the attacks stated, "For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons" (p. 401, par. 2). It has been well documented that identity theft is one of the many tools used by potential terrorists to commit acts of terror against Americans. An issue Col. McCraw also alluded to in his testimony.
Col. McCraw and Lt. Col. Marshall indicated this is an ongoing investigation, and the DPS agency plans to send a letter to the identity fraud victims this week. The DPS leaders also stated that preliminary steps had been taken to fortify the Texas.gov website, further alluding that additional safeguard measures may be implemented.