Packages, typically containing two IDs per customer, hidden in inside boxes of books, toys and electronics were seized at O’Hare International Airport. The fake IDs were headed toward Chicago and north suburbs, sent from China.
The intended customers were ages 17-20 and paid about $100 per ID by money order or wire transfer.
More than 1,700 fake IDs from China have been intercepted locally during the first six months of 2011 compared with about 10 per month last year, said Brian Bell, a Chicago spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The Cook County sheriff’s office last month announced the arrests of 40 young people as a result of the recent seizure of counterfeit driver’s licenses, described as being of “exceptionally high quality.” Most of the minors who purchased the IDs were from Midwest colleges. Instead of being charged with a felony, the students were issued misdemeanor citations, requiring 25 hours of community service.
The booming business of producing fake IDs in China is hard to shut down. A simple Google search of ” novelty IDs” will direct you to numerous fake ID sites.
“Summer is here. Are you ready to party? We’ll make sure that you are,” said one website that authorities called one of the most popular overseas sellers of Illinois IDs.
China has become the go-to destination for all things counterfeit — from designer bags to bootleg movies, Dart said. “Sites are next to impossible to shut down. Even if you do, they’ll just reopen under a new name.”
“As a society, we send a lot of mixed messages on fake IDs and underage drinking,” said Mundelein police Chief Ray Rose, who heads the Lake County Underage Drinking Task Force. “Many parents treat it like a rite of passage.”
As scammers’ technology evolves- with photocopiers, computers, and laser printers- ways to catch fraud are also evolving.
Photos started appearing on driver’s licenses in Illinois in the late 1970s. Holograms were added in the late 1980s. About a decade later, laminate replaced plastic casing. The digital system was introduced, allowing data and images to be stored and retrieved for future comparison.
Today, the Illinois secretary of state’s office has a special task force dedicated to combating fake IDs. But no matter what security is put in place — holograms, ultraviolet images, data-encoded magnetic strips — the “bad guys” have a way of catching up, said Dennis Krier of the issuance integrity section of the secretary of state’s office.
Current licenses contain more than a dozen security features, including some that are invisible to the naked eye. “And the measures that are in place now probably won’t be next year.”
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