Methamphetamine Abuse and Identity Theft

If you think that methamphetamine won’t affect your life, think again. Here’s an excerpt of a government report about how meth may become a problem for you or those you know.

Some methamphetamine abusers engage in various forms of identity theft in order to obtain methamphetamine. For example, methamphetamine abusers often generate cash by stealing and subsequently cashing personal checks or by using stolen credit cards to purchase merchandise that they sell for cash or trade for methamphetamine.

Some abusers also trade stolen credit cards or personal documents (such as checks, bank statements, workplace pay statements, etc.) to distributors in exchange for methamphetamine. The distributors then sell the stolen credit cards and documents or provide them to methamphetamine producers as payment for the drug.

For example, the Central Valley California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) reports that drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups that traffic methamphetamine in the HIDTA region organize groups of methamphetamine abusers and direct them to steal personal identity documents in exchange for drugs or cash.

Identities traded for methamphetamine are then used by the DTOs and criminal groups in a variety of ways, including:

To launder drug proceeds:

  • By opening bank accounts in victims’ names to deposit, transfer, and withdraw funds.
  • By using victims’ identities to transfer large sums of money through money services businesses and to purchase money orders in amounts that require proof of identification.
  • By applying for mortgages in victims’ names.
  • By using victims’ identities to acquire online credit and to make purchases.
  • To supply criminal fugitives within the DTOs and criminal groups with fresh identities in order to evade law enforcement, incarceration, or even deportation (in the case of illegal aliens).
  • To sell for cash to brokers, who resell the identification documents to other criminals for their use.
  • To purchase precursor and essential chemicals with fraudulent credit cards or checks.

Law enforcement reporting indicates that methamphetamine abusers typically acquire another person’s personal information and identification documents by sorting through victims’ garbage as well as through mail theft, car break-ins, and Internet and e-mail scams.

Law enforcement reporting also reveals that Methamphetamine abusers commonly form organized groups to facilitate identity theft. The groups typically consist of Collectors, Converters, and Passers, who work within a specific geographic area and are responsible for specific tasks.

  • Collectors acquire identification documents through theft of personal information–usually from mail boxes, dumpsters, landfills, and parked cars.
  • Collectors provide stolen identification documents to Converters, who use the information to establish fraudulent bank and credit accounts and to obtain fraudulent checks and monetary instruments.
  • Passers use the fraudulent accounts and instruments to purchase expensive consumer items in person or to cash fraudulent checks.

Law enforcement reporting indicates that methamphetamine is the drug most commonly implicated in the drug-related identity theft complaints reported each year.

For instance, law enforcement officials in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, and Washington indicate that stolen mail and other documentation consistent with identity thefts have become increasingly commonplace at locations investigated under methamphetamine-related search warrants.

Moreover, data from the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2006 Survey of U.S. Counties show that the percentage of sheriffs reporting methamphetamine-related identity theft in their county increased 4 percent in just 1 year–from 27 percent in 2005 to 31 percent in 2006.

However, a precise comparison of the rate of methamphetamine-related identity theft with rates of identity theft associated with other drugs is not feasible because drug-specific identity theft statistics are not currently collected by any federal, state, or local agency. Nonetheless, 2006 FTC data show that rates of reported identity thefts are highest in states that have high and sustained levels of methamphetamine distribution and abuse.

For example, Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas, and Florida (all states with well-documented and long-standing concerns regarding high levels of methamphetamine distribution and abuse) ranked first through fifth for identity theft complaints per 100,000 population.

excerpt from the article Methamphetamine- Related Identity Theft, published online by the Office of the National Drug Policy