These cases prove that identity thieves can target anyone – whether you’re rich or poor, famous or an ordinary person, young or old.
Identity theft, especially for those whose lives have been upturned by such violation, is nothing to laugh about nor trivialized. It leaves a path of destruction, with devastating effects that linger for years to come. However, there are quite a few prominent cases of identity theft that are strange at best and disastrous at worst. In some of these cases, the perpetrators had motivations other than financial gain for their crimes.
Perhaps some of the most famous cases of identity theft involve those perpetrated by Frank Abagnale. After all, his life has been made into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, entitled “Catch Me If You Can”. During his heyday, he claims to have assumed no fewer than eight identities, including an airline pilot, a teaching assistant, a physician, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent, and a lawyer. He embezzled thousands of dollars from people and banks in more than 10 countries between the ages of 15 and 21. He was finally caught in Montpelier, France in 1969 after an Air France attendant he previously dated recognized him and informed police.
Strangely, because of his experience impersonating professionals and stealing other people’s identity, the FBI hired him to glean information with regards to his expertise so that they can be better equipped to handle similar cases.
Gerald Bernbaum worked as a pharmacist until he lost his license after committing Medicaid fraud. In the 1970’s he changed his name to Gerald Barnes, an orthopaedic surgeon from Stockton, California, and began impersonating him. He embarked upon a career practicing medicine under his new name, and at one point, even worked as a staff physician that performed medical examinations on “hundreds” of employees in the Los Angeles office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. His career ended when a 29-year old type-1 diabetic man tragically died under his care. Bernbaum a.k.a. Barnes plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license.
In an effort to relive her high school days, 33-year old mother Wendy Brown assumed the identity of her 15-year old daughter and enrolled in high school so she could become a cheerleader and get her high school diploma. She attended classes with students half her age, tried out for the cheerleading squad and attended a party thrown by the cheer coach. Just a few days after she began her masquerade, she was exposed as a fraud after the check she wrote to pay for her cheerleading uniform bounced.
Mark Tufano, a British actor, impersonated famed actors, one of which was Gary Oldman. His impression of Oldman was so remarkable that when he found out that someone in Hollywood was casting the role of Andy Kaufman for “Man On the Moon”, he video-taped a screen test of himself impersonating Gary Oldman impersonating Kaufman. Things took a bad turn for Tufano when Oldman, who had previously turned the role of Kaufman down, found out that he was the leading candidate.
Abraham Abdallah, a 32-year old busboy, targeted some of the richest celebrities and executives in America, assuming their identities, setting up hundreds of fake New York addresses for postal deliveries and raiding their personal accounts. His alleged victims included Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Siebel. His attempt to transfer $10 million from an account belonging to Thomas Siebel led to his arrest.