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CHICAGO (CBS) — A South Side packaging company thought the end of the pandemic would mean the end of an expensive mail scam with crooks tearing into envelopes with checks and then cashing them to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Now the postal inspector is not offering updates to the scam that shows no signs of slowing down.

It has cost packaging company Combined Sales near Midway nearly $60,000 has they’ve seen checks just vanish.

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CBS 2’s Chris Tye first reported on this in on Feb. 8 when the lost checks totaled $35,000. By Feb. 26 it had reached more than $41,000.

Four months later Ken Pecho with the company said it has lost around $53,000.

Thieves tear into check filled envelopes at some point in transit between customer and vendor. They take checks, sign them over to scribble names like Diana, Betty, Kevin, Tomala and Vise, and then cash them.

And the USPS Inspector General’s office is offering no signal on where the investigation stands four months in.

“Absolutely nothing,” Pecho said.

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CBS 2 uncovered one thing that has happened. Last month The Inspector General’s office issued an audit into pandemic mail fraud theft. Between March of 2020 and February of this year they claim Chicago saw a total of 39 USPS fraud cases, which is up 35% over the year prior, and 44 total mail theft cases, which is a drop of 19% from the year prior.

Could it really be just 44 total postal theft cases over 12 pandemic months?

“That doesn’t seem possible,” Pecho said. “We have had more than that just in our business park.”

When CBS 2 asked the local post office about those numbers, they said to reach out to the the postal inspectors. We reached out to the local office, who in an email deferred us to national headquarters. When we called the number provided, the message said, “Welcome to Verizon Wireless. Your call cannot be completed as dialed.”

It’s a runaround Pecho knows well.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” he said. “You think things have stopped or slowed down for a while then you have another incident.”

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There has been a lot of talk about bipartisan support in Congress to reform the USPS, but Pecho said they would not necessarily solve his problem. That is all about getting mail delivered on time, but he’s more concerned with it arriving at all and stopping the theft along the way.

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Tags: chicago news investigative stolen checks usps usps inspector general chicago news investigative inspector general’s office general’s office inspector general’s packaging company

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Illinois to begin random electronic checks for uninsured motorists on July 1

Beginning July 1, Illinois will start using automatic electronic checks to detect drivers without auto insurance.

Twice a year, Illinois motorists will be subject to random checks.

Currently, an estimated 15 to 18 percent of Illinois’ 8.5 million motorists are driving without auto insurance.

Kevin Martin, executive director of the Illinois Insurance Association, said uninsured motorists are a problem that Illinois has been wrestling with for years.

“There was all sorts of legislation that has been introduced over the years and none of it seemed to work,” Martin said.

Several years ago, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office and the IIA determined that eight other states were successful in getting a higher percentage of motorists insured when they used random electronic checks to identify uninsured drivers.

“It worked. They were able to cross check individuals and find out who was uninsured. They were able to do it in a very efficient manner. And that is what we are looking for here,” Martin said.

The vast majority of drivers with insurance won’t notice. Their auto insurance will be verified electronically and no one will bother them. However, if the random check shows that a driver is not insured, the driver will get a letter from the Secretary of State’s Office, giving them a certain amount of time to prove that they have an active auto insurance policy in place, or to buy one. If they do not comply, they will face having their license plates suspended and they will be hit with a $100 fee to have their plates reinstated.

Illinois expects that the new program will result in a 4 or 5 percent increase – or even more – in the number of drivers who have insurance.

“That’s a lot of drivers that we are talking about,” Martin says.

The Illinois program was designed in conjunction with the Illinois’ Uninsured Motorist Verification Advisory Committee, which is chaired by Secretary of State Jesse White. The IUMVAC members included representatives from the General Assembly, officials from insurance companies and traffic safety advocates.

The Illinois program is in compliance with national standards established by the Insurance Industry Committee on Motor Vehicle Administration.

Motorists who get a letter asking them to confirm that they have auto insurance should not contact or visit an Illinois Driver Services office. They should contact an insurance company or an insurance agent and give them the specific reference number – referenced in the letter of notification – that the Secretary of State has assigned to their case.

The insurance agent will then be responsible to confirm electronically with the Secretary of State – through State of Illinois Insurance Verification System – that the vehicle owner does in fact have automobile insurance on the verification date stated in the letter, or provide the Secretary of State's office with proof that the driver has since purchased auto insurance.

News Illinois State

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