CHICAGO (CBS) — Park Ridge was not the only suburb where a thief broke open blue mailboxes a few weeks ago.
CBS 2 discovered it also happened in three other suburbs—from the south to the north—all over the course of a few days.
Morning Insider Tim McNicholas shows us how it starts as theft and turns into fraud.
The blue boxes outside the Park Ridge post office are still out of service, nearly a month after someone pried them open in the night and stole everything inside, including the $500 check Wilbur Mills mailed to his insurance company.
“I’m trying to figure out who’s accountable,” Mills said,
A copy of the check his bank sent him shows it was not for $500, but $2,000; and not to an insurer but to someone named Lionel Buckley.
“They redid the addressee, the date, the amount. In fact, there wasn’t anything on the check that wasn’t altered,” Mills said.
Now Mills joins an unfortunate but growing club that we’ve reported on for months; people who became fraud victims after mailing checks in Park Ridge.
Court records show someone broke into the mailboxes at that post office seven times in the last seven months.
“And that’s what concerns me, the same lightning striking several times, several times at the same place,” Mills said.
It turns out, when someone pried open the mail boxes in Park Ridge, a few weeks ago, lightning struck in several places.
CBS 2 has confirmed with police that someone forced open blue boxes not just in Park Ridge–but in Palos Park, Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights; all over the course of about eight days in early November.
“This is a chronic problem,” said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
She encouraged victims to reach out to her office as well as U.S. Postal Inspectors.
“Clearly this needs to be stepped up. We don’t want it to become kind of a contagious fraudulent activity. And I think the Postal Service has to look out for that,” Schakowsky said.
Schakowsky also represents Lincolnwood, where a recent CBS 2 report revealed 18 people had checks altered after mailing them in the past year.
McNicholas: “What would you say to people who are wondering, is it safe to use the mail right now?”
Schakowsky: “I think in general, it is.”
As for Mills, he said he doesn’t know anyone named Lionel Buckley, the name on the altered check.
Now Mills is paying more bills electronically, and he said he wouldn’t use the blue boxes at the Park Ridge post office even if he could.
No word if any fraud occurred yet in Prospect Heights or Mount Prospect, but Palos Park police confirmed they are taking reports from people who had checks stolen and washed.