Chicago — Two armed men robbed a US Postal Service mail carrier of his master keys as he worked in Lincoln Park on Wednesday morning, according to a Chicago police report.
Officially, CPD issued a media statement that said a 35-year-old man was “standing outside when two offenders approached him and demanded property while displaying a firearm” in the 2500 block of North Ashland around 11:30 a.m.
But CWB Chicago has learned that the victim is a mail carrier, and the “property” that the robbers demanded from him was a USPS “arrow key.” Those are the master keys that let postal workers unlock collection boxes, parcel lockers, mailbox panels, and apartment building mailroom boxes.
After the robbery, the offenders ran east on Altgeld Street, the report said. The suspects are two Black males, one is about 6 feet tall, wearing a black face mask and a black jacket, and the other wore a black and red coat with jeans that have rhinestone decorations, an officer said.
Postal carriers across the city have been similarly targeted for their master keys. Thieves used them to steal large volumes of mail, which are then used in identity theft and check fraud schemes, according to police.
“Checks, credit cards, PPP loans, and identity theft are the new hustle in urban America,” a source told us last week.
The problem of mail theft has become so widespread that the US Postal Service itself 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.