Chicago — A US Postal Service mail carrier was robbed at gunpoint in the West Loop on Saturday morning, according to a Chicago police report. It’s the latest in a series of similar crimes where armed robbers force postal workers to give up the master keys to the mail system.
Saturday’s robbery occurred one block south of the Chicago Police Department’s training academy.
Two men, both wearing masks, rolled up in a dark SUV and pulled a gun on the mail carrier in the 1300 block of West Van Buren around 11:30 a.m., the CPD report said. After getting the victim’s work keys, the offenders told him to run away.
Experts say the stolen master keys, also known as “arrow keys,” are used by theft crews that steal checks, credit cards, and documents to fuel identity theft operations.
Some thieves who use the stolen keys even wear postal service uniform parts as a disguise.
“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.
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.
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.