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Troubleshooter Consumer Alert: Con man shares secrets for protecting your identity

Troubleshooter Consumer Alert: Con man shares secrets for protecting your identity (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Identity theft continues to be one of the top methods used to rip people off.

Thieves can do it in a number of ways and one of the easiest is stealing mail from a mailbox. Often the con men are feeding a drug habit. One man who stole thousands of dollars that way said he's turned his life around and wants to give others advice to protect themselves from people like him.

Dallas Tedford was just like many others; he worked hard and never committed a crime. But then an addiction to drugs turned his world upside down.

"I was a full-fledged meth addict for about 16 years."

Dallas said the drug addiction cost him almost $1,000 a week. So, he turned to a life of crime, "We went around to the richer neighborhoods and we stole the US postal mail out of the mailbox gathering information, gather intelligence."

Specifically 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."

Those checks hold a wealth of personal information. It can give people access to those bank accounts.

US Postal Inspector Brendan Noennecken said, "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."

They 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," said Noennecken.

One thousand victims lost more than $70,000. Dallas admitted his drug problem helped him justify his actions. 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," said Dallas.

Postal inspectors said that was not true. ID theft can take consumers years to clean up and in the meantime a person's credit is in limbo. Prevention is key. Preferably, people should use collection boxes at a post office.

Once caught, Dallas admitted to his crimes, went to prison, and has been clean for three years.

"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."

A judge sentenced Him to serve more than four years in prison for ID theft and mail fraud charges. He's now in the process of trying to pay the $70,000 in restitution he owes in the case.

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