Chicago — Chicago police and US Postal Service inspectors are investigating a suspected identity theft mill found inside a Loop hotel room on Monday evening, according to a law enforcement source.
Police initially responded to the Virgin Hotel, 203 North Wabash, around 8:25 p.m. after the hotel asked to remove two men from a room on the 18th floor, according to CPD records.
No people were in the room when Chicago police arrived, according to a CPD media statement, but a lot of other stuff was.
Police found checks, money orders, stacks of mail, computers, piles of fake identification cards, stolen ID cards, DNA tests, and key-cutting equipment, a CPD report said.
The discovery is the latest hit to the postal service, which has been targeted by armed robbers and mail thieves who feed a massive identity theft and check fraud network.
“Checks, credit cards, PPP loans, and identity theft are the new hustle in urban America,” a law enforcement source told CWB Chicago last month.
“Never put anything into the postal system unless you are comfortable with it landing in the hands of criminals instead of at its intended destination,” advised another investigative source.
The mail theft problem has become so widespread that the US Postal Service has advised people not to put mail into its once-ubiquitous blue mailboxes after the last collection time.
Mail thieves might score a valuable package or an envelope containing a birthday gift card from someone’s grandma once in a while. But experts say the real value comes from identity theft and check fraud mills, which use information from stolen mail to steal people’s identities and checks.
Some crews specialize in altering and depositing checks, sometimes multiplying the face value of the note by many times its original amount.
A source said those teams often operate with the assistance of marginalized people who open checking accounts they do not need.
“The stolen $40 utility payment is changed to $4,000. The halfwit withdraws the money, and the account crashes,” the source explained.
The source said they believe the postal service’s problems are even more significant and widespread than the agency is letting on.
“They’re reluctant to tell the truth to keep consumers buying stamps and keep citizens from using other means of delivery” like UPS or FedEx.