Law enforcement agencies across the country have linked the increase of identity theft to meth addiction. Using meth lends itself very well to the repetitive tasks required in stealing someone's identity. Many abusers are targeted and recruited into ID theft rings by unscrupulous criminal minds who are non-drug users yet recognize the capabilities of those who are. Addicts are paid either in cash or with meth for information gathered and turned over to the organizer (who then usually sells the information to someone else) either form of compensation feeds the addicts habit.
Why ID theft? It's easy, it's free and meth abusers are awake and wired for days on end. They have heightened sensibilities and can literally spend hours working on a computer hacking into bank accounts, scouring neighborhood mailboxes or piecing together shredded documents (like a puzzle) to glean personal information; which they themselves use or sell for cash or drugs to individuals organizing ID theft rings.
For the meth abuser consequences are minimal or non-existent. Identity theft provides virtually free funds or products that can be converted to cash. So what if he/she gets caught? NO BIG DEAL. Currently ID theft is considered a ‘paper' crime. Unlike the more violent crimes committed by cocaine or heroin addicts, who might rob a bank or individual at gunpoint, ID theft is non-violent. A bank robber can expect to receive prison time whereas the ID thief will more likely get a short jail sentence or a suspended sentence with probation. Even though ID theft is costing individuals and businesses millions of dollars each year and that cost continues to rise.
Chances are the average meth user has a poor credit rating, so by stealing someone's identity, he/she can open up a bank account, get a mortgage or even open multiple credit accounts. Once a user opens a new bank account it is nothing for the computer literate addict to transfer money between accounts draining the victims resources. It takes little imagination to realize what a ‘tweaker' can do with fraudulent credit cards.
How do abusers gather information? Authorities have confirmed that meth abusers go through trash, landfills and even dumpster dive if necessary looking for personal information. What do you throw away? Are you careful? If possible any documents containing personal information should be shredded. At least that slows them down some and a shredder is cheap compared to the chaos that ID theft can cause. In addition meth users have confessed to combing better neighborhoods late at night searching for mailboxes with flags up (indicating outgoing mail inside), hoping for bills with checks in them so bank account numbers can be confiscated. Enforcement authorities have claimed in some states 95 percent of ID theft rings are directly connected to meth use and abuse.
The Arizona Connection:
Arizona leads the entire nation in ID theft crimes. Does that mean Arizona has a meth problem? That's easy to answer in one word, YES! In fact there is a ring in Phoenix that calls themselves the "Tweakers". Even more astounding is the recent arrest in Phoenix of an ID theft ring member who was arrested in another state for the same crime.
According to Sheriff John R. Armer and other deputies within the SO, many of the property crimes, thefts, burglaries and trafficking currently being committed in Gila County have a direct connection to meth use and abuse.
Next month: More on specific ID theft cases and what authorities are doing to combat this epidemic.
Don't use, abuse or be confused!
For questions or more information on the Gila County Meth Coalition contact Chair Claudia DalMolin at the Gila County Sheriff's Office (928) 425-4440, Co-Chair Bianca DalMolin at (928) 701-1790, Facilitator Peggy Huggins at (928) 425-1887 or Media Liaison Lu DuBois at (928) 467-2515.
Remember Marty says "Meth IS Death."
Presented by the Gila County Meth Coalition