Postal worker mugged, robbed of master key in Bucktown

CHICAGO — A postal worker was physically attacked and robbed while making her rounds in Bucktown on Saturday evening.

The 53-year-old letter carrier was near Armitage and Wolcott when a man assaulted and robbed her of her U.S. Postal Service master key, according to an initial Chicago police report. After getting the key, he returned to a black SUV, which fled west through an alley.

Postal service masters, also known as “arrow keys,” allow mail carriers to access apartment buildings and mailbox systems.

Highly organized identity theft and fraud organizations have used arrow keys to steal large volumes of mail from public mailboxes and residential building mailrooms across Chicago. Some mail thieves have even worn USPS uniform pieces.

Officials say the people who rob and steal master keys are a small part of the operation. Mail thieves might occasionally score a valuable package or an envelope containing a birthday gift card from someone’s grandma. However, 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.

In one scam, the theft rings use common chemicals to erase ink on stolen checks and write a check for a large sum. The fraudulent checks are then either cashed or sold online. A source said that those teams sometimes prey on marginalized people who open checking accounts they do not need in exchange for small amounts of money.

The source explained, “The stolen $40 utility payment is changed to $4,000. The halfwit withdraws the money, and the account crashes.”

“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,” a CWBChicago investigative source said last year.

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 who get caught are typically charged in state court. Those cases usually end with sentences ranging from probation to three years. A postal thief recently convicted in federal court received a 366-day sentence.

Original reporting you’ll see nowhere else, paid for by our readers. Click here to support our work.

About CWBChicago 6555 Articles
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