CHICAGO — One of Chicago’s countless mail thieves was caught on camera as they used a U.S. Postal Service master key to enter a residential building near Goose Island on Wednesday.
Images shared with CWBChicago by a reader and video posted to the Ring network show the thief covered head-to-toe in black clothing, except for his blue surgical gloves.
He used a master key to access the building’s key box and entered the lobby around 1:23 a.m. Inside, he stole mail.
“Today, our building replaced all of our locks, costing nearly $1,000,” the reader told us. “We are refusing to replace the exterior key in the key box. We contacted our mail carrier and asked him to buzz us [to get in].”
“Our building residents will be using Informed Delivery with USPS to track mail,” the reader continued.
“It’s all very frustrating. Mail carriers aren’t safe. And now robbers have unfettered access to buildings courtesy of the USPS,” they continued. “We imagine that they hit other mailboxes in the neighborhood, but people would have no idea because their boxes are mounted to the exterior of the building or on an iron fence.”
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.
“Checks, credit cards, PPP loans, and identity theft are the new hustle in urban America.”
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.
The mail theft problem has become so widespread that the US Postal Service has advised people not to put mail into its once-ubiquitous blue mailboxes after the last collection time. Too many thieves have stolen master keys, so the boxes are no longer secure.