A US Postal Service mail carrier was robbed at gunpoint of his master key while making deliveries in Bucktown on Thursday morning, according to a Chicago police report. Just a couple of weeks ago, CPD warned that mail carriers had been robbed of their keys five times since August, but those crimes occurred farther west.
Experts say the stolen master keys are used by theft crews that steal checks, credit cards, and documents to fuel identity theft operations.
“Basically, the entire U.S. Postal Service is riddled with fraud,” a law enforcement source told CWBChicago last year. And things have only gotten worse since then.
Around 12:35 yesterday afternoon, a 42-year-old mail carrier was confronted by an armed robber when he entered a building in the 1900 block of North Oakley, police said.
A Chicago police spokesperson said the robber demanded the courier’s property, but the CPD case report identified the property as postal service master key, also known as an “arrow key.”
The victim described the robber as a thin Black male in his mid-20s who stood about 5’10” tall and wore a ski mask and a blue jacket. He was last seen heading south in a gray sedan with one other occupant.
A CWB source said that mail thieves are “part of a larger operation that uses stolen mail to open checking accounts and launder stolen checks,” among other crimes.
Some thieves who use the stolen keys even wear postal service uniform parts as a disguise.
In one tricky scheme known as “check washing,” criminals use common chemicals to erase ink on stolen checks, then write the check for a large sum.
The fraudulent checks are then either cashed or sold online.
According to the Sun-Times, more than 17,000 check fraud cases have been reported this year in Illinois, up from 13,000 for all of last year.
The local postal workers’ union president told the Sun-Times that some members were thinking about not going out on their routes because their work had become too dangerous.