Identity Thefts Linked To Meth Use

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Authorities in Western states say that many methamphetamine users now apply the energy and focus caused by the drug to the detail-oriented crime of identity theft.

Police in cities like Denver are starting to put together meth use and a rise in other crimes, like theft from mailboxes and garbage cans, typical of the information-gathering needed for identity-theft crimes. Meth users often steal check or credit card numbers to generate funds to buy drugs or chemicals to make more meth.

Those law enforcement officials say that while identity theft is usually associated with big computer schemes, meth use is emerging as the crime's more gritty reality. "Anybody I knew that did meth was also doing fraud, identity theft or stealing mail," said Tammie Carroll, a former meth addict from Denver. "Five days a week we did it," said Carroll. "It was like a job."

Although it is possible that identity thieves who use meth are merely easier to nab and prosecute, police and treatment professionals interviewed believe the link is deeper.

Identity theft and methamphetamine use and addiction complement each other for a number of reasons, from the nature of the drug's high to the fact that many meth labs are in rural areas where addicts can steal mail from unlocked boxes. Acetone, a chemical used in meth labs, also can be used to "wash" checks so they can be written again.

"Crack users and heroin users are so disorganized and get in these frantic binges, they're not going to sit still and do anything in an organized way for very long," said UCLA addiction researcher Richard Rawson. "Meth users, on the other hand, that's all they have, is time. The drug stimulates the part of the brain that perseverates on things. So you get people perseverating on things, and if you sit down at a computer terminal you can go for hours and hours."

To learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and learn more about methamphetamines, Southwest Behavioral Health/Rim Guidance Center can provide a free presentation to your group. Contact Darlene Duncan at Rim for more information or to schedule a presentation. She can be reached at 468-8055, ext. 3804."

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