With the country effectively shut down and more people at home using computers, the instances of identity theft have dramatically increased.
The state of Texas especially has seen an increase in cases of scammers attempting to steal stimulus checks. These and other scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic have authorities quick to crack down on them.
To ensure you aren’t inadvertently caught up in the crossfire, understand what constitutes identity theft crimes in Texas and what the possible penalties for these crimes are.
What are Identity Theft Crimes in Texas?
Identity theft comes in a variety of forms. As technology improves so do the tactics that scammers use to extort information from potential victims.
Law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas and around the country are taking these activities seriously. One way is by educating people on the potential tactics these criminals use to get information.
Fake Check Scams
This scam has been used for quite a while before the COVID-19 crises but has had a major resurgence recently. It is especially popular for the current pandemic because of the stimulus checks being sent out.
This scam involves a fake check being mailed to the victim for more than the amount they were expecting. Scammers are sending checks that claim to be government stimulus checks with an amount greater than a person was supposed to receive.
Authorities are notifying the public that victims then receive a call from the scammer who claims to be from the IRS or another government agency. The scammer requests that the victim send money in to cover the excess amount of the check. When the victim goes to cash the check, they find that it is fake and they are out the money sent.
Phishing schemes are another common form of identity theft that has been around for decades. With more people at home and using their computers, the opportunity for scammers to utilize this scam has increased.
The public is being educated on this scam which involves sending a fake email made to look real. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is usually an email made to look like it’s from the IRS. The goal of this scam is to get the victim to click on the email and steal their information.
Law enforcement is especially attuned to phishing scams that are trying to collect includes social security numbers, credit card numbers, account passwords, and other information that can be used to obtain money.
Fraudulent Phone Calls
Fraud phone calls are similar to phishing scams except they usually come in the form of a phone call instead of email. This scam usually involves someone calling a potential victim posing as a government official or representative of a company.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, this has most commonly been from scammers posing as Texas Workforce Commission employees. These scammers call people who have applied for unemployment benefits and pretend to be TWC workers who need extra information.
As with a phishing scheme, scammers are commonly looking for social security numbers and other information that can be used to defraud people. They use this information to apply for credit cards and open bank accounts among other things.
Penalties for Identity Theft in Texas
The penalties for fraud and identity theft in the state of Texas depend on how many documents were fraudulently obtained. If convicted, you could be holding the bag, not only for the amount of money scammed but a $10,000 fine for every count and years of jail time too.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.