Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - December 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Protecting Texans From Identity Theft
Houston County Courier - December 2008
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an enforcement action against one Rio Grande Valley company and reached agreements with two others that will help protect Texans from identity theft.
All three companies were charged with failing to protect and properly discard records containing customers’ sensitive personal information.
The Thursday, Dec. 11 agreements require the two companies to enhance their information-security procedures and training programs. They will also pay a combined total of $145,000 in penalties and attorneys’ fees.
“Identity theft is one of the nation’s fastest growing and costly criminal enterprises,” Attorney General Abbott said.
“These cases all involve companies that failed to properly dispose of materials containing their customers’ sensitive personal information. The Office of the Attorney General is committed to enforcing laws that help prevent identity theft.”
To resolve the state’s investigation, GAB Robins, which provides services to insurance carriers, agreed to pay $125,000 in penalties and attorneys’ fees, and improve its information security protocols and employee training program.
Under the settlement, $100,000 will fund future identity theft investigations.
The state launched its investigation after a Corpus Christi reporter discovered company records in a dumpster that was not protected by security measures. Documents obtained by OAG investigators contained customers’ personal information, including name, driver’s license number and date of birth.
The second settlement involved B&F Finance McAllen, L.L.C., a loan company managed by Victory Management Services (“VMS”).
In that case, B&F improperly disposed of customers’ personal identifying information in a publicly accessible trash receptacle behind its McAllen offices.
Despite the unlawful disposal, VMS assured its customers through the company’s privacy notices that it keeps customers’ private personal information in a secure environment and that security procedures are used to protect customer data.
VMS agreed to improve its information security procedures, implement an employee training program, and pay the state $20,000 in civil penalties and attorney's fees.
The Attorney General also is filing a separate enforcement action against a third company, Nino Tax of Brownsville.
The state launched its investigation after the Brownsville Police Department turned over to the OAG five boxes of records that were next to a dumpster behind the defendant’s office. The business records contained approximately 200 customers’ personal identifying information.
Although the investigations have revealed no confirmed incidents of victims’ personal information being obtained or misused by identity thieves, customers whose records may have been contained at the affected locations should carefully monitor bank, credit card and similar financial statements for evidence of suspicious activity.
Texans also should obtain free annual copies of their credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com to guard against this growing crime.
Consumers who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov where they also can obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.