Having an identity thief use your name to go on a shopping spree is more than just a hassle for some victims. Take it from Sandy, the main character in the new movie "Identity Thief," who ends up facing criminal prosecution when he learns that his identity had been compromised by the bombastic Diana, played by Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy.
Sandy's journey takes him on a whirlwind manhunt to clear his name of thousands of dollars in credit card debt accumulated by Diana. As outlandish a premise as this may sound, in real life, identity thieves can do much more than just ruin your credit score.
A lot is at stake in a case of total identity theft
One example of identity theft reported by the FBI features a victim who lost seemingly every facet of his identity in a battle for justice that lasted more than 22 years. Like Diana, the thief in this scenario was also based out of Florida, where the whole ordeal started after he broke into the victim's car in 1989 to steal his wallet.
This story wasn't resolved until 2011 when Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Richard Blanco pulled over the thief for a minor driving violation. When Blanco ran the driver's license of the man, "John Doe", he discovered that the name had been flagged as a potential case of identity fraud.
A well-prepared thief can pull off a fraud for more than two decades
The thief had roughly 20 forms of identification on him when Blanco pulled him over, including a passport, Social Security card and birth certificate, which all seemed to check out. Doe, or at least the man who claimed to be Doe, was insistent that he was in fact the victim of identity fraud.
Persistence pays off when for committed thieves
In reality, the actual John Doe had filed a police report years ago, but the thief had never been apprehended by police. The fake John Doe even served time in prison, acquired a U.S. passport and had several children all under the victim's name, ruining not just the real John Doe's credit report, but also his ability to be hired.
After a DNA test was conducted to determine which of the men was the real John Doe, the imposter was sentenced to jail, though he still claims that he is the victim in the situation. So the good news for Sandy is that, although he may be left facing a mountain of debt, at least he wasn't forced to fight for two decades to clear up his good name.