Mail theft is ‘the new hustle in urban America’ expert warns as another mail carrier is robbed in Logan Square

Chicago — A US Postal Service mail carrier was robbed by two men in Logan Square on Friday evening, the latest crime in an ongoing assault on the mail system in Chicago.

“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 an investigative source.

“Checks, credit cards, PPP loans, and identity theft are the new hustle in urban America,” another source said.

Like dozens of other mail carriers, the postal worker robbed on Friday was targeted for her “arrow key,” a US Postal Service universal master key that opens collection boxes, parcel lockers, mailbox panels, and apartment building mailroom boxes.

A homemade sign warns people not to use a mailbox in Chicago’s Hollywood Park neighborhood in December 2022. We have blacked out Esteban’s last name. | Provided

The robbers, who targeted the carrier in the 2600 block of North Washtenaw around 5:45 p.m., also went through her pockets and took other items before escaping, a Chicago police spokesperson said.

On December 21, a witness called 911 after seeing a fake postal worker using a master key to open mailboxes in the 1800 block of West Belmont in Roscoe Village. The man was gone when the police arrived. Some mail thieves have gone so far as to wear USPS uniform pieces.

One week earlier, on December 14, at least three mail carriers were robbed at gunpoint within two hours, according to records reviewed by CWB Chicago: near Adams and Oakley, in the 2100 block of West Fulton, and in the 4200 block of West Madison.

Postal inspectors sent a “be on the lookout” bulletin on December 20 for a blue Hyundai Sonata being used by a crew that broke into unattended postal vehicles in the South Loop and on the Magnificent Mile.

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 that 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.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is