Asian Americans in Texas are angry after officials revealed this week that thousands of Asians across the state may be affected by identity theft orchestrated through a website that involved using personal information to answer questions. of security.

The state Department of Public Safety had unknowingly issued about 3,000 driver’s licenses to an organized crime group targeting Asians in the state, DPS Director Steve McCraw told a House committee Monday. of Texas Representatives. The incident, which is currently under investigation, was discovered in December, McCraw said, and the department began notifying victims by mail this week.

With no notice of the incident for months, Asian Americans say they are disappointed with the DPS response and feel they have been kept in the dark.

“It really shows that our state government doesn’t see us, doesn’t care about us and doesn’t prioritize our well-being,” Lily Trieu, executive director of Asian Texans for Justice, told NBC News.

DPS did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

McCraw did not name the organization, but told the Texas House Appropriations Committee that a New York-based Chinese organized crime group had obtained the licenses with Asian names to sell to undocumented immigrants, predominantly from China, hoping to pose as the victims. . He added that with the licenses, impersonators would be able to obtain additional supporting identification documents with their own photos.

Using victims’ personal information obtained from «the dark web» or websites hidden by traditional surface browsers, the group was able to answer security questions on the state website, McCraw said. The questions have since been removed from the website.

«Identity questions could be something you shared with a credit card company or something like your mother’s maiden name, your first car you ever owned, your favorite sport,» McCraw said. “[They] use those questions to be able to enter and purchase a replacement driver’s license with Asian-sounding names. And from that, get a replacement driver’s license sent to the address of your choice.»

Prompted by questioning from state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, the committee’s vice chair, McCraw said the victims’ IDs could have been used during the months in which they had not been notified. He said DPS did not immediately alert the victims because the department «opted to conduct a thorough investigation» before making the information public.

McCraw also said he did not view it as a «breach», saying the criminal organization did not hack the website. Rather, the group discovered a «vulnerability» and exploited it, he said.

Brittney Booth Paylor, director of media and government relations for the Texas Department of Information Resources, echoed McCraw’s language in a statement provided to NBC News.

“This is fraudulent criminal activity based on identity theft unrelated to state systems, not a cybersecurity incident. No state system, including the state portal, was hacked or breached,» Paylor wrote in the statement.

Paylor declined to comment further on whether any personal information was taken during the identity theft.

Jeoff Williams, deputy director of police services for DPS, told the committee that the identity theft was discovered after a credit card company was notified of a fraudulent charge made through Following the discovery, changes were made to the website’s credit card transaction process, he said.

One of those changes, he said, is to “include the billing zip code and CVV or three-digit code on the back of the card at the time of the transaction. That feature was not turned on,» Williams said.

Debbie Chen, director of civic engagement programs for the Asian-American civil rights organization OCA Greater Houston, said many in the Asian community are now questioning their safety in Texas.

“Three years into the pandemic, people have really experienced anti-Asian hate. People have felt like a scapegoat. And then you have a government agency that knew about this months in advance and did nothing,” Chen said. “That contributes to this fear of, ‘Do you consider us equal citizens compared to everyone else?’”

Both Trieu and Chen called the state government’s delay in notifying victims, regardless of a criminal investigation, unacceptable.

“Your identity can literally impact everything in your life. It could have caused people’s wages to be garnished, it could have led them to be under criminal investigation for someone who used their identity to conduct criminal activities,” Chen said. “You would think that some types of resources would have been expended, even if it was trying to call people individually.”

Trieu said her organization requires DPS to communicate with all victims and also provide language assistance. An estimate one third of Texans of Asian descent have limited English proficiency, defined as having difficulty communicating effectively in English, according to civic engagement data and nonprofit AAPI Data.

The defenders also demanded an explanation and specific information about the size and scope of the problem. So far, information is scant and some organizations and activists only found out about the ordeal because they tuned in to the committee session, Trieu said. Additionally, Trieu said that victims will be provided with a credit monitoring tool.

“Now that your personal information is at risk, there could be long-term financial repercussions,” Trieu said. «The state was negligent, the state should be held accountable to ensure that people are protected by following up on their credit report.»

McCraw told the committee that the department will issue replacement licenses free of charge. And a DPS spokesperson told the Dallas Morning News that the information will be translated into more languages, but did not provide a timeline.

Por admin