CHICAGO (CBS) – Mailbox thieves are targeting the West Loop, and a number of victims coming forward claiming their mail was taken.
As CBS 2's Sabrina Franza reported Thursday, some victims lost big money.
We're hearing multiple reports of stolen mail and mailbox break-ins across the West Loop, where people have dropped off mail -- sometimes valuable mail -- with expensive consequences.
Imagine sending a check for $63.84 through the mail, only to have thousands of dollars vanish from your bank account. That happened to a woman named Chelsea, who had a couple of zeros added to that $63.84 figure that she did not authorize at all.
"Realized that there had been a withdrawal for $6,300.84," Chelsea said.
Chelsea sent a check through a mailbox at Randolph and Elizabeth streets. While talking with us, she pulled up a picture of her cashed check -- pointing out another big problem.
"It was written out to Carl someone," Chelsea said. "I am very unfamiliar with anybody named Carl."
Someone forged Chelsea's handwriting. She filed a fraud complaint and eventually got her money back.
"Somebody had broken into the mail, taken my check, and modified it," she said.
That day, she also sent her grandfather a birthday card. It never arrived.
Chelsea's story seems part of a larger trend of misplaced mail in the West Loop.
"At this point in the game, people really need to take responsibility for their valuables," said Julie Darling of the West Loop Community Organization.
Demetrius Bournias witnessed something fishy going on at a mailbox at Adams and Sangamon streets on a 2 a.m. walk with his dog Wednesday. He said it looked like a man was stealing something.
"At first, I thought it was odd for a postman or something to be picking up mail," Bournias said, "but obviously, it was something else."
Bournias saw a man walk up with a mail key, take what was inside the mailbox, and run out to a waiting car -- not a mail truck, a car. As he was driving away the person threw a letter out the window.
"I would assume they went through any valuables that were in there," he said. "They probably took it before they threw it out the window."
Such valuables could include things like Chelsea's $63-turned-$6,300 check.
"That could be someone's lights. That could be someone's power. That could be food for a family," Chelsea said.
We reached out to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - whose public information officer, Silvia Carrier, released this statement:
"We recommend that customers look at the final pick up time listed on the collection boxes, that are located outdoors, and avoid leaving mail overnight in a collection box that could be compromised. Mail can be deposited in boxes inside of a post office which offer more security for the mail.
"The success of our investigations often correlates with the timeliness of victim reporting. As such, I would urge any victim of mail theft to contact local law enforcement and the Postal Inspection Service as soon as possible so we can better investigate the crime and hold those responsible to justice. If a Postal customer does fall victim to mail theft, or identity theft as a result of mail theft, they should immediately file a report with local law enforcement, file a report with the Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455, and closely monitor their financial accounts and credit profiles to get ahead of any fraudulent activity."
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