We all know that cybercrime including identity theft has flooded the world these last few years. The ever-advancing technology has created rooms for internet crime which is costing many people their money as well as personal information. A recent study revealed that 1 out of every 16 U.S. adults has been a victim of identity theft.
Now a much bizarre story has emerged about the Texas state government selling the personal information of its citizens since 2010. This scheme has reportedly swooped about $2.7 million dollars since 2010. The irony of this story remains the fact that, the government is supposed to be the ones to help protect its citizens from identity theft and not the other way around.
This is however possible because, unlike private companies, the state does not give out a privacy statement which alerts citizens whenever you apply for or renew your driver’s license or pay your annual vehicle registration.
The statutes of the state differs a bit when it comes to protecting the date of birth of a Texas citizen. One particular law states that, due to the sensitive nature of the information, it is not to be released due to identity theft.
The state appeals court in 2015, declared that the date of birth of “every living person” is not public information because it creates the risk of you becoming the victim of identity theft.
Meanwhile, other laws allow Texas agencies, specifically the Department of Public Safety and the Secretary of State to sell your name, address, and date of birth.
The Department of Public Safety alone has amassed over $1.9 million in the sale of personal information with the Secretary of State making almost $720,000.
This personal information is been sold to data mining companies, insurers, tax-collecting law firms and electricity companies, and it is alleged that these companies lay hands on this information through an open records request.
According to Texas law, anyone is at liberty to purchase voter registration records whiles Driver’s license can also be bought by a wide range of people and companies for uses including “the normal course of business.”
Investigators obtained a list from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicating that driver license information is being sold to businesses ranging from towing companies, cosmetics companies, and even groceries stores. In addition, a traveling circus was discovered by the Texas station on the list.
However, these outside companies do not have the right to use the information to sell stuff to the citizens, and the only way this can come to light is when people start to complain.
It’s although legal for the Texas government to sell the information under provisions of the Texas Public Information Act. The issue here, however, goes contrary to that and this is because most Texans do not know about this scheme because they do not receive a privacy statement.
Another scary part of the story is that some of the companies that purchased the personal information of citizens have been hacked or compromised some way and a clear example is Equifax.
Rep. Gary Elkins, the chairman of the House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation, and also a powerful state legislature stated that, this whole situation is wrong and that the information is disturbing and he will very much like to cook up a solution.
“I don’t think the average person getting a driver license knows that their information is being sold,” Elkins stated.
Another person who expressed her displeasure about this issue is Caroline Branca, a mother of 16-year-old Philip. Philip just received his license and it is increasingly likely that this information would be sold alongside the millions of other Texans.
“We do what we can to protect our information, and I want our government to do what it should be doing to protect our information as well, and my son’s,” Branca stated as she didn’t know the information was being sold.
Cybersecurity experts explained that, if a hacker lays hands on your date of birth, it’s much easier to get your social security number and target your finances.
“The DOB is very, very important to an attacker because now he can put parts of the puzzle together,” stated cybersecurity expert George Sprague.
“Once he has that puzzle together, he has you as a person,” he added.
And if that happens, the hacker can do many things as you such as open up credit cards, cell phones, and loans.