Meth Addicts Targeting Mailboxes to Fund Their Habit

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 12, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Several states with high rates of identity theft are finding they also have something else in common: They have a problem with people addicted to methamphetamines.

Law enforcement officials say meth users are becoming the every day face of identity theft because they're awake for days and they have the ability to fixate on small details, things like check and credit card numbers.

Joining us live is Sheriff Paul Pastor of Pierce County, Washington.

So, Sheriff, what are you seeing? I've described the problem generally but give me some specifics.

SHERIFF PAUL PASTOR, PIERCE COUNTY, WASHINGTON: Well, we have people who are addicted to methamphetamine, which is a central nervous system stimulant, very, very addictive drug. They have to have the wherewithal to get that drug.

Many of them turn to identity theft or mailbox mining, if you will, to try to get your information, whether it be credit cards, checks, any kind of financial information to take your good name and use it to their benefit, whether by getting cash for the information or getting drugs for that information.

GIBSON: So, it is just a simple matter of driving by your mailbox, reaching in and grabbing your bills and running?

PASTOR: Well, it's a matter sometimes of an industrial strength approach to that by driving by 300 mailboxes and scooping the mail out, putting it in bags and then taking it to a person who will exchange either drugs or cash for that kind of vital information that can ruin your credit rating.

GIBSON: You live in a fairly small county, right, or you have a fairly small county?

PASTOR: Well, we have about 750,000 people in the county, so it's probably a midsize county by national standards.

GIBSON: OK, well, so describe the problem where you are.

PASTOR: Well, the problem where we are is a lot of people do not have locked mailboxes. They have mailboxes that are the rural type that are out at the end of the lot or out at the end of the road because we have urban, suburban, rural and even wilderness areas that we police in about 1,800 square miles.

If your mailbox is 50 yards, 100 yards from your house and the mail person comes by and places your mail in it, then that gives an opportunity for somebody to come down the road and check before you can get to your mailbox and check your mail. If it's not a locked mailbox it's as simple as opening the door, scooping things out and going to the next one.

If you put up a flag on your mailbox it says "Hey, there's mail inside." Maybe you're trying to pay your bills that way. That's a bad way to pay your bills because the people who will be cruising will try to come up with it.

GIBSON: Sheriff Paul Pastor of Pierce County, Washington, good advice. Sheriff, thanks very much and good luck.

PASTOR: Thank you.

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