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U.S. law enforcement authorities at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport have intercepted about 20,000 fake driver’s licenses so far this year that originated mostly in China and apparently purchased online.
A Customs and Border Protection official in Chicago described the bogus documents as “very realistic,” including being equipped with bar codes that actually pass muster in the screening process.
In a statement, CBP asserted that the counterfeit (and apparently more high tech) licenses pose a full-spectrum threat. “These fraudulent identity documents can lead to identity theft, worksite enforcement, critical infrastructure protection, fraud linked to immigration-related crimes such as human smuggling and human trafficking…these documents can be used by those individuals associated with terrorism to minimize scrutiny from travel screening measures.”
Hong Kong, South Korea, and the U.K. were other source countries in a total of about 1,500 shipments.
Authorities noted that most of the smuggled-in licenses were set up for young people. Presumably, this includes a cohort that wants to gain entry to bars despite being underage. Maybe they are planning ahead for a time when COVID restrictions on those establishments get lifted.
It also possibly raises the implication of voter fraud, because a government-issued license is one gateway for registering to vote. Given the demographic of the IDs, this could be particularly relevant in college towns in those states that allow same-day voter registration. Oddly, many of the sham licenses contained the same picture.
Officials have also seized counterfeit IDs at other points of entry, suggesting that many more such shipments could be slipping through undetected.
Officers at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, for example, have discovered about 900 phony IDs embedded in international cargo in a six-month period through the end of April, constituting a significant uptick over prior years.
The agency warned potential purchasers about the risk of identify theft accompanying these transactions.
“What is most disconcerting about theses interceptions, besides the volume in which we are experiencing, is the ease in which so many young people freely share their personal information with counterfeiters abroad,” a CBP official explained. “We’ll continue to collaborate with local law enforcement to educate the public, and anyone who is contemplating purchasing a counterfeit ID online, on the potential dangers of sharing your personal identifiable information with a criminal element.”
— Director of Field Operations Jud Murdock (@DFOHouston) April 28, 2020
In the fall of 2019, Kentucky-based CBP agents caught approximately 3,000 fake driver’s licenses as well as an equal number of blank card stock used to create licenses shipped from China that were en route to New York but were for use in multiple states.