More Than Identity Theft, What About Life Theft?

We’ve all heard about identity theft being a problem in our society, and few argue that the idea of someone taking your own identity is anything but terrifying.  But as the issue progresses and new technologies come out in an attempt to prove each of us is the genuine article, a question has to be raised.  Just how far could identity theft really go?  Could it go farther than just a name and a number?  Could someone actually assume the entire identity of another and live what is essentially their life?

When Brooke Henson disappeared in 2000, her family thought they may never see her again.  But when their daughter turned up going to an Ivy League school they didn’t recognize her when they learned of her identity.  Instead, it turned out someone else was using her identity to live a completely fabricated life.  And it turned out she even had the official documentation required to “prove” who she was.  Eventually the woman confessed to being someone else, and that she had actually disappeared herself from her own family years before.

But what about an even more extreme scenario?  Could a living person who looked like another actually live their lives in a stranger’s house claiming to be someone they had never met before?  If this were the case, the double would certainly have their work cut out for them.  The premise has been the subject of several television episodes and films, but has it ever actually happened in the real world?  Some people believe it has – with a very well known celebrity in fact.  One whose fame is undeniable.

The rumor that Beatles legend Paul McCartney died came from the original singer’s decreased appearance in the public eye and the rumor soon took off with several photographs documenting what believers say are changes in the singer’s appearance as the years wore on.  Eventually these culminated in the “Paul is Dead” urban legend which grew into popularity in the early 1970’s.  Despite this, the fact that Paul McCartney has appeared several times on television in person and led a successful solo musical career has only fueled the flames as some suggest this is not Paul McCartney, but rather a skilled impersonator who has duped most of his former friends and family members.

So could someone actually pull off a hoax so tremendously thorough that they learn everything about being their original and come to know them as if they could actually live in their skin?  Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility when it comes to a matter of strangeness in this universe it would seem, but the perpetrator would certainly have their work cut out for them.

Perhaps one of the most effective means of discovering a person’s identity has been proven time and time again in the same television shows that use the strange premise as a plot device.  The impersonator would have to glean all their knowledge of others based on recorded knowledge.  They would not likely have specific knowledge of past events that were seemingly trivial.  Of course the threat here is that many people would simply not remember trivial things anyway because they were – well trivial.