Identity Theft in TV and Film
Allison here with AllClear ID. In February, a new comedy called Identity Thief will hit theaters, chronicling the story of a poor soul (Jason Bateman) who has his identity stolen by a seemingly harmless woman (Melissa McCarthy), and goes on a road trip to find her and stop her. While this may sound like a fun movie, it isn’t a realistic depiction of what happens to identity theft victims in real life.
Hearing about the upcoming movie release gave rise to an interesting question: how is identity theft portrayed in the media? Is this portrayal accurate, or are things twisted or misconstrued in order to be dramatic and entertaining for the audience? Below are a few examples of id theft in film and TV, and what we think about their portrayal of identity theft.
- Friends – “The One with the Fake Monica” – In this episode, Monica befriends a woman who stole her credit card, eventually revealing that she is the real Monica Geller. People may be tempted to seek out those who steal their identity, but this is not an advisable decision. Very rarely do the thieves make it this easy to find them, and a victim could potentially place himself or herself in harms way in the process of locating the thief. Overall, this storyline makes nice comedy, but does not reflect the reality of an id theft situation.
- Catch Me if You Can – Based on a true story about a con artist who stole millions by impersonating a pilot, doctor etc. , this movie falls into that grey area between impersonation and identity theft. While Frank Abagnale Jr. took on the identities of real people to cash checks and receive benefits, he dropped the fake identities as soon as the checks were cashed or the money was in his hand, which is not quite the identity theft scenario we all know and recognize. Also, it should be mentioned that identity theft chases are never this exciting or glamorous.
- Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story – Also based on a true story, this Lifetime movie is about identity theft victim Michelle Brown. Not only did a thief steal her identity and accrue over $50,000 in goods and services, but the real Brown ended up falsely accused of stealing the identity when trying to arrest the culprit. This movie does offer a more in-depth and realistic view of some of the struggles victims can face when trying to clean up an id theft situation, but it is still sensationalized for the big screen. After her ordeal, the real Michelle Brown testified in 2000 to a U.S Senate Committee hearing about her ordeal as well as suggestions for laws and regulations to prevent identity theft and to help victims.
Can you think of any other examples of identity theft in TV or the movies?