Texas State Victim Resources:
Phone: (615) 741-5860
OAG Texas Fights Identity Theft Page
Texas Department of Public Safety
Driver License Division
Victims Initiative for Counseling, Advocacy, and Restoration of the Southwest
Agencies that offer assistance to IDT victims:
- Legal Aid of North West Texas: 800-955-3959
- Lone Star Legal Aid: 800-354-1889
- Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.: 800-968-8823
Security Freeze Law:
All Texas consumers are allowed to place security freezes on their consumer credit reports to prevent new accounts from being opened in their names. Such a freeze enables the consumer to prevent anyone from looking at his/her credit file for the purpose of granting credit unless the consumer chooses to allow a particular business look at the information.
To request a freeze, a consumer must request one in writing by certified mail. The credit reporting agency may not charge a fee to victims of identity theft, who have a valid copy or a police report, investigative report, or a complaint with a governmental agency about unlawful use of his personal information by another person, for placing, temporarily lifting, or removing a security freeze on their credit report. For all other consumers, a $10 fee will be applied to place, temporarily lift or remove a security freeze on their credit report. A $12 fee may be charged for the release of a credit report to a specific person. The reporting agency must place the freeze within five business days after receiving the request, and within ten days must send a written confirmation of the freeze and provide the consumer with a unique personal identification number or password to be used by the consumer when providing authorization for the release of his credit for a specific party or period of time. Requests for a temporary unlocking of the freeze must be completed within three business days. The attorney general may file suit against credit reporting agencies that violate these provisions.
The suit can include injunctive relief to prevent or restrain violations, a civil penalty of up to $2,000 per violation, and if found liable, reasonable attorneys’ fees, court and investigative costs, and expenses.
Statute: Business & Commerce Code: §20.034-039: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/BC/htm/BC.20.htm#20.034
How To Place a Security Freeze: http://www.consumersunion.org/pdf/security/securityTX.pdf
Mandatory Police Report Law for Identity Theft Victims:
State law requires law enforcement officers to create a written report whenever a consumer alleges being a victim of identity crime. The report must include the name of the victim, suspect (if known), type of identifying information obtained, possessed, transferred or used, and the results of the investigation. This report can be provided to the victim, upon his request.
Statute: Code of Criminal Procedure: §2.29: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/CR/htm/CR.2.htm#2.29
Identity Theft Passport Law:
No State law at this time.
Identity Theft Laws:
A person commits the offense of fraudulent use or possession of identifying information if he, with the intent to harm or defraud another, obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses the identifying information of (1) another person without the other person’s consent; (2) a child younger than 18 years of age; or a deceased person, including a stillborn infant.
Offenses are punished based on the amount of identifying information fraudulently used or possessed. It is a state jail felony if the number of items obtained, possessed, transferred or used is less than five; a felony of the third degree if the number is five to nine; a felony of the second degree if the number is ten to 49; and a felony of the first degree if 50 or more.
Identifying information is defined as information that “alone or in conjunction with other information identifies an individual,” including:
- Name, Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, or government-issued identification number;
- Unique biometric data, including the individual’s fingerprint, voice print, and retina or iris image;
- Unique electronic identification number, address, and routing code, financial institution account number; and
- Telecommunication identifying information or access device.
Statute: Penal Code §32.51: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/PE/htm/PE.32.htm#32.51
In addition, it is a civil offense for a person to obtain, possess, transfer, or use personal identifying information of another person without the other person’s consent and with intent to obtain a good, a service, insurance, an extension of credit, or any other thing of value in the other person’s name. Violators are liable to the state for a civil penalty of at least $2000 but not more than $50,000 for each violation. The attorney general may bring suit to recover the civil penalty.
In addition, if the attorney general believes that a person is engaging or has engaged in identity theft crime, he may bring an action against the person to restrain the violation by a temporary restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction. The attorney general is entitled to recover reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining injunctive relief, civil penalties, or both, under this section, including reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, and investigatory costs.
Statute: Business & Commerce Code §48.101.
State law allows identity theft to be prosecuted in any county in which the offense was committed or in the home county of the victim
Statute: Code of Criminal Procedure: §13.29: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/CR/htm/CR.13.htm#13.29
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for identity theft crime is seven years.
Statute: Code of Criminal Procedure: §12.01 http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/CR/htm/CR.12.htm#12.01
Other Related Laws:
The court may order defendants convicted of identity theft offenses to make restitution to the victim, including lost income or other expenses, other than attorney’s fees, incurred as a result of the offense.
Statute: Penal Code §32.51: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/PE/htm/PE.32.htm#32.51
State law prohibits phishing, the act of sending an e-mail that falsely claims to be from an established legitimate enterprise to scam the recipient into surrendering private information, either directly by reply or by sending the recipient to a bogus Web site that looks like the site of the established legal enterprise. The scammer then uses that information for identity crime. The law prohibits a person from creating a web page or domain name without the express authority of the registered owner of the business to induce, request or solicit another person to provide identifying information. Internet service providers and owners of websites or trademarks affected by the phishing scan can file suit against the phishers to seek up to $100,000 for each violation or actual damages, whichever is greater. Punitive damages are available for repeat offenders. There is no private course of action for individuals.
Statute: Business & Commerce: §48.001 through 005.
A person commits an state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000, if he:
- With intent to obtain a benefit fraudulently, presents or uses a credit card with knowledge that the card, whether or not expired, has not been issued to him and is not used with the effective consent of the cardholder; or the card has expired, or has been revoked or cancelled;
- With intent to obtain a benefit, uses a fictitious credit card or debit card or the pretended number or description of a fictitious card;
- Receives a benefit that he knows has been obtained in violation of this section;
- Steals credit card or debit card or, with knowledge that it has been stolen, receives a credit card or debit card with intent to use it, to sell it, or to transfer it to a person other than the issuer or the cardholder;
- Buys a credit card or debit card from a person who he knows is not the issuer;
- Not being the issuer, sells a credit card or debit card; or
- Not being the cardholder, and without the effective consent of the cardholder, possesses a credit card or debit card with intent to use it.
Statute: Penal Code: §32.31: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/PE/htm/PE.32.htm#32.31
A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly makes a materially false or misleading written statement to obtain property or credit for himself or another. An offense is a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the property or the amount of credit is less than $50; a Class B misdemeanor if the value is between $50 and $500; a Class A misdemeanor if the value is between $500 and $1500; a state jail felony if between $1500 and $20,000; a felony of the third degree if the value is between $20,000 and $100,000; a felony of the second degree if the value is between $100,000 and $200,000; and a felony of the first degree if the value is more than $200,000.
Statute: Penal Code: §32.32: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/PE/htm/PE.32.htm#32.32
State law authorizes businesses to require a customer to verify his identity by means of stating the zip code associated with the card, and allows the business to electronically verify with the credit card issuer that the zip code matches any zip code that the issuer has on file for the card.
Statute: Business & Commerce: §35.64.
State law prohibits the use of a scanning device or re-encoder that is used to obtain or record encoded information from the magnetic strip of a payment card without the authorization of the authorized user and with the intent to defraud the authorized user, the issuer of the card, or a merchant. Scanning devices are defined as a scanner, reader, or any other electronic device that is used to access, read, scan, obtain, memorize, or store, temporarily or permanently, information encoded on the magnetic strip or stripe of a payment card. A re-encoder is an electronic device that places encoded information from the magnetic strip or stripe of a payment card onto the magnetic strip or stripe of a different card. Violations are Class B misdemeanor, punishable by 180 days in state jail and/or a fine up to $2000.
Statute: Business & Commerce: §35.60.
State law prohibits the unauthorized installation or use of spyware, software that aids in gathering information about a person without his knowledge. It prohibits the unauthorized collection, transmission, and use of personally identifiable information about a person using a computer. It establishes a cause of action for providers of computer software, for the owner of a webpage or trademark and for a telecommunications carrier or Internet service provider who are adversely affected. The bill also allows the Attorney General to collect civil penalties.
Statute: Business & Commerce: §48.001 to 48.102.
Social Security Numbers
State law restricts the public availability of Social Security numbers. It prohibits the public display or disclosure of Social Security numbers in mail, on receipts, and on the Internet. It also prohibits requiring an individual to transmit his social security number over the Internet unless the connection with the Internet is secure or the number is encrypted. The law also prohibits requiring an individual’s Social Security number for access to an Internet website, unless a password or unique personal identification number or other authentication device is also required for access.
Statute: Business & Commerce: 35.58.
Statute: Business & Commerce: §35.581.
Destruction of Records
State law requires businesses to destroy or arrange for the destruction of customer records containing sensitive personal information within the business’s custody or control that are not to be retained by the business by shredding, erasing, or otherwise modifying the sensitive personal information in the records to make the information unreadable or undecipherable through any means.
Statute: Business & Commerce: §48.102.
State law requires a person or business that conducts business in the state and owns or licenses computerized data that includes the sensitive personal information of a state resident to notify any resident of the state whose sensitive personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, acquired by an unauthorized person. A security breach occurs upon “unauthorized acquisition of computerized data that compromises the security, confidentiality, or integrity of sensitive personal information.” Sensitive personal information is defined as an individual’s first name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following items, if the name and the items are not encrypted: Social Security number; driver’s license number or government-issued identification number; or an account number, or credit or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password, that would permit access to an individual’s financial account. It does not include publicly available information that is lawfully made available to the public from federal, state, or local government records.
Notice must be made as quickly as possible, but may be delayed upon the request of law enforcement or to determine the scope of the breach, or to restore the reasonable integrity of the data system. Notification can be provided by mail or e-mail. If the cost of providing regular notice would exceed $250,000, the amount of people to be notified exceeds 500,000, or the person or business does not have sufficient contact information to provide written or electronic notice, substitute notice may be provided. When substitute notice is used, it must consist of all of the following, as applicable: e-mail notice, conspicuous posting on the person’s or business’s web site, and notification to statewide media. If the number of affected consumers is 10,000 or more, the consumer reporting agencies must also be notified.
Statute: Business & Commerce: §48.103.
State law permits identity theft victims to file an application with the district court for the issuance of court order to declare them a victim of identity theft. To file such an application, a person must have already filed a criminal complaint with a law enforcement agency or have been injured (financially or otherwise) as a result of the identity theft crime. The court will hold a hearing where the victim will present his evidence, and if the court is satisfied, it will enter an order declaring him to be “a true victim of identity theft.” This order can be used to dispute and correct business or governmental records that contain inaccurate or false information that resulted from the identity theft.
Statute: Business & Commerce Code: §48.202.
A consumer may place a security alert on his credit reports, signifying the fact that his identity may have been used without his consent to fraudulently obtain goods or services in the his name. The alert requires potential creditors to take reasonable steps to verify the consumer’s identity, including contacting the consumer at a specified phone number, before extending credit. The credit reporting agency must comply within 24 hours of receiving a consumer’s request to place a security alert, and must show it to those who request your credit report for 45 days. It can be extended for additional periods upon request.
Statute: Business & Commerce Code: §20.031-033: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/BC/htm/BC.20.htm#20.032
Prohibition Against Discrimination in Extending Credit
State law prohibits credit issuers from denying or restricting credit to someone simply because he or she has been a victim of identity theft, as long as the victim has filed a criminal complaint of the theft.
Statute: Business & Commerce Code: §35.585.
Prohibitions Against Debt Collectors
State law prohibits debt collectors from pursuing collection of a debt if: the charges were made by an unauthorized user, the debt collector received written notice that the charge was unauthorized, and the authorized user filed a police report that the charges were unauthorized and provided the debt collection agency with a copy of that report.
Statute: Finance Code: §392.303: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/FI/htm/FI.392.htm#392.303
Criminal History Records
Once informed that a person’s identifying information was falsely given by an arrested person, local law enforcement agencies are required to contact the person whose identity has been falsely used and give that person notice of his or her rights. This includes filing a declaration within the Department of Public Safety (DPS), and expunction of information. If local law enforcement is unable to do so, DPS must make the notification. In addition, DPS must make certain computerized criminal history information reflects the use of the person’s identity as a stolen alias, and, when applicable, notify the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) that one of its inmates may be falsely using the person’s identity. Statute: Code of Criminal Procedure: §2.28: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/CR/htm/CR.2.htm#2.28
Check Verification Service Notification
State law requires banks to offer its customers the option of having the bank notify the check verification services that the customer is a victim of identity theft. If a customer notifies the financial institution that he/she is a victim of identity theft, requests that the institution close an account that has been compromised by the alleged offense, and presents a copy of a police report and a sworn statement that he/she is a victim of identity theft, the financial institution must convey this information to the check verification entities through a secure electronic notification system. Victims also have the right to contact the check verification entities directly.
Statute: Business & Commerce Code: §35.595.