PORTLAND, OR -- Have you ever wondered why someone may become a con man or how they can rationalize their behavior? This story will give you a unique perspective as one man explains how he exploited the mail stream to steal the identities of credit of innocent consumers. His honest and candid interview shows he was feeding a vicious drug habit – but has now turned his life around to help others.

Dallas Tedford said, "I was a full-fledged meth addict for about 16 years." He said that drug addiction cost him almost $100,000 a week. So, he turned to a life of crime.

Tedford said, "We went around to the richer neighborhoods and we stole the U.S. postal mail out of the mailbox gathering information, gather intelligence." He said they specifically looked for personal checks. "The flag up indicated that there was outgoing mail, which is usually a check to pay a phone bill, a check to pay electricity, a check to pay a car payment," he said.

Those checks hold a wealth of personal information. He said, "You have access to those bank accounts, which you can alter the numbers on it – you can re-print your own checks."

US Postal Inspector Brendan Soennecken explained how they worked, saying, "They would have friends open up accounts and then have them deposit checks to those accounts. Withdraw as much money as they could the first or second day until the bank caught on to the fraud."

Tedford said he and his friends also learned how to exploit depositing checks from your smart phone. "The thing about using a smartphone is you don’t need the magnetic ink to be able to go into a bank and cash it. You just use everything from your smart phone and be able to deposit it right there sitting at your home without ever stepping foot into a bank."

One-thousand victims lost more than $70,000. Tedford admits his drug problem helped him justify his actions. He said he felt the banks were the only victims. "They will report it as fraud, they were never going to lose no money and everything at the end of the day everybody is happy. I get my money – they don’t lose nothing."

Postal inspectors say that's not true. Identity theft can take consumers years to clean up and in the meantime your credit is in limbo. Prevention is key. Preferably use collection boxes at a post office.

Once caught - Tedford admitted to his crimes, served more than 4 years in prison for id theft and mail fraud charges, and has been clean for three years. He said, "If I didn’t commit those crimes, I would have been out there still be using methamphetamine – I don’t know if I would be dead, I don’t know what kind of life I would be living right now, but by me going to prison – it saved my life."

Tedford is in the process of paying the $70,000 in restitution he owes the victims in this case.

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