Texas Attorney General — and Governor-Elect — Greg Abbott announced today that his office has opened a criminal investigation into an apparent identity theft ring that is claiming to be either a governmental or debt collection agency in an attempt to steal state residents’ personal information and identities.
In recent months, according to the announcement, dozens of Texas residents have reported receiving telephone calls from criminals who claim to be collecting overdue payments – particularly child support debt – on behalf of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. These imposters typically inform their victims that he or she owes funds to the OAG and claim that an arrest warrant has been issued due to the resident’s failure to make the purported payment.
Once victims are alarmed about the prospect of a warrant being issued for their arrest, the identity thieves seek to “confirm” the resident’s Social Security number and other personal information. After the unwitting victim divulges this sensitive personal information, the caller claims that the entire matter can be resolved if the victim immediately pays the purported debt through a bank draft. The victim is told to go to a nearby convenience store, purchase a pre-paid debit card, load it with cash, and call back the identity thief to provide the number off the back of the card.
After receiving the card number, the imposter can both steal the funds on the card and use the victim’s sensitive personal financial information to steal the victim’s identity.
“Texans who reported this scheme to our office recognized that the payment demand was a scam, knowing that they have no child support or any other type of case with the OAG and therefore owe no funds to our office,” said Abbott. “These residents wisely refused to share their card number or personal information with the imposters and instead reported the calls to our office.”
The OAG encourages every Texan who receives a similar call from a purported government debt collection agency that is demanding debt payments to first verify that the request is legitimate. To do so, Texans should directly contact the government agency that is allegedly seeking the funds by using a phone number for the government agency that is independent of the one provided by the caller.