USPS investigating stolen mail, missing mail, drop box break-ins in Chicago area

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The I-Team has been investigating mail problems - including missing mail, stolen mail, looted drop boxes and mail delays - for more than 15 years, but in recent weeks we've received a growing number of complaints and learned that a rash of mail thefts and even mail dumped as trash is contributing to the issue.

The I-Team caught up with one mail dump incident, in a Rogers Park alley, the day it happened.

The US Postal workers investigating the case didn't want to talk to us while they rescued bags of mail that had just been dumped in the garbage. Neighbors saw a different postal carrier do the dumping.

"I saw a postal truck in an unusual spot," a resident who doesn't want to use his name said.

He heard loud bangs from a dumpster and says he saw the postal carrier dump mail, which could contain important bills or medicine for dozens of residents.

"I saw about eight or nine bags of mail in the trash," he recalled. "It's rough out here for all of us but we want our mail. So just do your job."

Sherry, who asked that her last name not be used, lives in Lynwood and is furious over what she said is nine months of ongoing missing mail.

"All I want is my mail," she pleaded.

She uses the USPS Informed Delivery Service which shows photos of your actual pieces of mail and when they will be delivered. That's how she's kept track of what's gone missing.

"Right now I'm missing a 1099 and an Indiana form, as well I'm afraid to have anything sent here," she said.

In July she was supposed to get a tax refund check from the IRS.

"This check never came," she told the I-Team.

Instead, her money was stolen. The check was forged and cashed.

"How could someone else have gotten it?" Sherry wondered.

And then there is the disturbing scene on the South Side of Chicago of what appeared to be mail burning on a grill. Postal Inspectors and Chicago police said they are investigating.

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Mail is also getting into the wrong hands by people breaking into post office drop boxes.

The blue boxes in Villa Park, Lombard, New Lenox, Lincolnwood, Wilmette and Winnetka have all been broken into.

In Park Ridge, drop boxes were broken into five times before Kelvin Dortch of Dolton was caught. He was charged with theft and having a key to unlock the drop boxes. Dortch pleaded not guilty. His attorneys did not reply to the I-Team's calls and emails.

According to USPS Inspector General Reports to congress in 2021, nearly 1,000 complaints were investigated and almost half were about mail theft.

READ: USPS semiannual report to Congress, Spring 2021 (Oct 2020-March 2021)

READ: USPS semiannual report to Congress, Fall 2021 (April-Sept 2021)

A USPS spokesperson told I-Team the "Office of Inspector General was notified of the mail found in a dumpster in the Chicago area" and is investigating. The mail was "recovered and will be delivered."

Regarding the pilfered drop boxes, the Postal Service would only say that there are ongoing investigations, adding "The U.S. Postal Services delivers over 150 billion pieces of mail a year to over 150 million addresses all throughout the country. Sending mail is actually one of the most secure ways to send information and commerce."

Spokespeople didn't comment about Sherry's case but she said she filed complaints months ago and is still dealing with missing and stolen mail.

"I just want my mail to be the way it used to be," she said. "I tell people, 'don't send it here, because I won't get it.'"

To avoid theft and other issues, don't let your mail pile up in your mailbox and sign up for the USPS Informed Delivery service to view what you're getting each day, digitally.

If you do not receive a check or other valuable mail, contact the issuing party as soon as possible.

More Tips to Protect Your Mail



Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you're expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items.

If you do not receive a check or other valuable mail, contact the issuing party as soon as possible.

Monitor your financial accounts and credit profiles for any fraudulent activity, even if you are not a victim of mail theft. Early detection is so important! In that vein, consider credit freezes with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax).

If Postal Service customers feel they might be a victim of mail theft or find discarded mail, please contact our hotline at USPSOIG.org or 1-888-USPS-OIG. The USPS OIG is an independent agency that maintains the integrity and accountability of America's postal service, its revenue and assets, and its employees. One of the missions of USPS OIG special agents is to investigate mail delivery concerns that involve Postal Service employees. The theft, delay, and destruction of U.S. Mail is a federal crime and the USPS OIG takes allegations of delayed, discarded, lost, destroyed, or stolen mail seriously and investigates those allegations vigorously.

In addition to the USPS 24/7 agency hotline telephone number, postal customers should go to the agency's website (www.uspis.gov) and the Chicago Division Twitter page (www.twitter.com/uspis_chi).

If a Postal Service 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.
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