Diana, the bumbling so-called "Identity Thief" played by Melissa McCarthy, may seem like a caricature of what a regular criminal who commits this crime is actually like. However, as ridiculous as she may seem, blowing thousands of dollars of someone else's money on frivolous shopping sprees, identity theft like this occurs all the time.
In the film, Diana steals the identity of Sandy, played by Jason Bateman, who lives thousands of miles away unaware that his good credit score is being compromised. It isn't until one day when he gets summoned to court in Florida that he realizes someone has been using his name to run up massive debt. As a result, Sandy goes on a cross country journey to find Diana and take matters into his own hands.
You don't have to travel far to find your identity thief
Although the film depicts identity theft that crosses state borders, a thief can steal your information in your own hometown and leave you with massive debt without you finding out before it's too late.
One example involves a crafty identity thief who was able to steal someone's credit card without the victim ever even realizing. The victim was at the gym he regularly visited when the theft occurred. He always kept his wallet, cell phone and change of clothes locked up in the facilities locker room. One day, when the man came back from the shower, he noticed that the locker had been opened, which was not how he remembered leaving it, so he immediately went through his belongings to make sure nothing had been taken.
Even when you think you're safe identity theft may surprise you
Upon inspection, everything seemed in order — no cards or cash seemed to be missing and his driver's license was still there. It wasn't until later that month, when the victim saw his credit card bill, that he realized something was amiss. There were more than $9,000 worth of charges on the card that the victim had not made, so he immediately called the credit card company to clear up the issue.
When the customer service representative verified that there was no glitch and the purchases had indeed been made, they asked the victim if his credit card had been stolen. Initially saying no, he looked through his wallet again, and sure enough, the credit card he thought was his was actually a similar looking expired credit card with someone else's name on it.
Since the victim hadn't reported the theft, the credit provider held him responsible for the purchases. Had the victim been enrolled in an identity monitoring service, he may have been alerted to the irregular activity taking place on his card. Instead, like Sandy, he was stuck in a bad situation that wouldn't have an easy resolution.