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Identity theft? 身份盗窃

中国日报网 2024-01-23 13:49


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, with “identity theft” in particular: I’m told that we are but the latest victims of identity theft.

My comments:

They’re but the latest victims, implying the problem is prevalent. A lot of people have fallen victim to identity theft.

Identity refers to our, well, identity, i.e. who we are, i.e. our name, age, gender, identity card number, phone number, home address, etc.

Strangers get an idea of who we are by piecing together these pieces of personal information.

Theft refers to the act of stealing something from people.

Thieves steal wallets, for example, by, say, picking them up from our pockets when we’re inattentive.

Pickpockets, as these thieves are called, roamed the street a lot more here in the past, when people carried wallets around. Nowadays, they are more likely to pick our pockets for smartphones instead.

After stealing our smartphone, they may go on to make an online purchase of some goods and services, using our credit card.

To use our credit card, they have to punch in a password and sometimes our entire ID card number. Unfortunately, all this information is listed in a notebook.

Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the thief. Thanks to this information, they’re able to complete the purchase in our name and at our financial cost.

That’s one simple and straightforward example of identity theft, a crime made possible via stolen personal information, via another person’s identity.

The lesson?

Protect your smartphone.

Do not lose it.

That’s easier said than done.

Fortunately, that’s not our immediate concern. Our immediate concern is getting a firm grasp of the term “identity theft”. And we can do that by reading a few examples of identity theft in real life:

1. A Pennsylvania man pretended to be former President Donald Trump or a member of his family in order to defraud hundreds of victims across the country, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Joshua Hall is charged with fraud and identity theft after federal prosecutors said he misrepresented himself or others while soliciting funds for a purported Trump reelection organization that did not exist.

Instead, Hall used the funds raised – thousands of dollars – for his own personal living expenses, according to the criminal complaint.

The alleged scheme involved the “creation and use of social media accounts bearing those family members’ names and photographs,” the complaint said.

“Hall used those accounts to amass more than 100,000 followers on social media and obtain media coverage, a public platform he then exploited to confer on himself and the Fictitious Political Organization a false imprimatur of close ties with the President's family and to encourage victims to make monetary contributions to the Fictitious Political Organization,” the complaint said.

In one instance last July, Hall allegedly created a social media account using the name and photograph of one of Trump’s siblings, the complaint states, who is referred to in court records as Victim-1.

“Hall, impersonating Victim-1, made a public social media post that falsely stated that Victim-1 runs the Fictitious Political Organization with Hall and that ‘Josh is doing great work so please give him a follow and support him!’” the complaint said.

Hall also allegedly impersonated the former president’s youngest son, Baron, who is referred to as “the president’s minor child (‘Victim-2’).”

“Hall, impersonating Victim-2, made a public social media post that stated that Hall was Victim-2’s ‘friend and partner’ and that ‘Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country. He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT!’”

- Man charged with impersonating Trump to defraud hundreds, ABCNews.com, June 9, 2021.

2. Lifetime’s ‘Identity Theft of a Cheerleader’ is a thriller film that revolves around Vicky Patterson, a 30-year-old high school dropout who’s working a dead-end job at a fast food restaurant. Vicky still lives with her mother, who is disappointed in her daughter and disapproves of everything she’s done in life. Faced with a mental onslaught from every side, Vicky starts to slowly disassociate from reality. In her desperation to redo her high school years (where all her problems started), she steals the identity of a student who works with her.

Using her identity, Vicky fakes her age and enrolls in the school to get the authentic “high school experience” and finally become a cheerleader. Directed by Christie Will Wolf, the 2019 film stars Maiara Walsh, Karis Cameron, Jesse Irving, Naika Toussaint, Chiara Guzzo, Matty Finochio, and Benjamin Wilkinson. Cases of identity theft aren’t unheard of, but was there ever a case as extreme as the one shown in ‘Identity Theft of a Cheerleader?’

Is Identity Theft of a Cheerleader a True Story?

Yes, ‘Identity Theft of a Cheerleader’ is a true story. The screenplay, written by Barbara Kymlicka, is loosely inspired by the real-life case of a 33-year-old in Wisconsin woman stealing her teenage daughter’s identity and attending high school, posing as a 15-year-old. Though the film’s story and the actual incident differ in some regard, the parallels between the two are quite clear.

In September 2008, at the beginning of a new school year, Wendy Brown walked into the Ashwaubenon High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dressed as a teenager – in a pink hoodie and a bag to match – Ms. Brown took classes, tried out for the cheer team, and even attended a pool party. All of it ended when she was found over two weeks later and arrested by the police. During Ms. Brown’s trial, it was revealed that she’d had run-ins with the law in the past as well, and the prosecutors attributed a monetary gain to be the motive behind her impersonating her daughter and enrolling in high school.

However, further investigation into Wendy Brown’s past and her cross-examination made it clear that there were far more deep-seated issues in play here. In a conversation with The Atlantic, the woman stated that she was bullied at school and accused her mother of allegedly being abusive towards her at home. Brown further claimed when she became pregnant in high school, she had to drop out because the bullying intensified.

Brown explained that all she ever wanted was to get her high school diploma, but the constant barrage of insults towards her and her teenage pregnancy was too much at the time. Some years later, Wendy Brown, her husband, and their two kids moved near Ashwaubenon High School in Wisconsin for a fresh start. Hearing the children day in and day out constantly made her think about her own high school, where everything started going wrong for her until finally, she decided to use her daughter’s identity to fulfill her squashed dreams of being a cheerleader.

Despite the serious case of identity theft, Brown was never convicted of the crime. Instead, the court appointed a psychiatrist to evaluate her, based on whose diagnosis Brown was found not guilty “by reason of mental disease or defect” and admitted to three years in Winnebago mental health facility. It was here that Wendy Brown finally got her high school diploma, and after her release from the institution, she also separated from her husband.

- Is Lifetime’s Identity Theft of a Cheerleader Based on a True Story? TheCinemaholic.com, May 22, 2023.

3. The LA County Sheriff’s Office is on the lookout for a man who’s been known to steal people’s identities.

Detectives say 37-year-old Christian Wood is likely still in West Hollywood after breaking into three apartment buildings to steal mail.

The burglaries happened between September and November. Video shows the man walking into a locked mail room, taking out what detectives call a pry tool and breaking into the boxes within seconds. He then proceeds to grab mail row by row.

“Generally, it’s identity theft, so he’ll use people’s mail when they get their personal information and use it to steal identity,” said LA County deputy Brandon Zeff.

The sheriff’s department says Wood has prior convictions for identity theft and burglary.

“There’s lots of secure documents that come in the mail. I get all kinds of things, medical documents that could have information that I don’t want getting out,” said one West Hollywood resident.

In one of the other mailbox burglaries, the suspect tried to light some of the mail on fire.

“He has a warrant right now for violating his parole. We have at least three cases in West Hollywood and additional cases in neighboring cities a well.”

- Mailbox thief hits West Hollywood apartment buildings, FoxLA.com, December 15, 2023.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


Works like a charm? 非常有效


Word salad? 言语混乱


Binge watch? 刷剧


Running around in circles? 兜圈子


Knock-on effect? 连锁反应

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