'IDENTITY THEFT' has been a hot topic in the news lately. A Google search on the term gets 48,600 hits. Most of the cases I've read about aren't very impressive, just ordinary fraud using stolen credit card numbers, and calling these crimes 'identity theft' seems overreaching: media attaching a scary label to a banal crime to make their stories seem more exciting. However, recently there was a case of the theft of individual data that included dates of birth, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden name, and other very personal data, after it had been collected by a legit company that was marketing cell phones. With that kind of information, yes, you could take a fair shot at stealing someone's identity.
There were two recent cases in the Philadelphia area. One involved three phone bank operators who stole the credit card numbers that people used to buy goods by phone.
The second case is a little stranger. A man and his wife were arrested for using stolen credit cards. The man gave his name as Olug Bemiga Olusato. No one believes that is his real name. He operated a cleaning business at the Philadelphia International Airport for six months, using the name Adegboyega Joshuaville. No one believes that is his name, either. His wife used the name Bolanie Joshuaville, which is also believed to be false. Documents found at his house suggest that the couple's credit card fraud operations extended into several states. Both individuals are thought to be from Nigeria, and the FBI and Secret Service (why the Secret Service?) are trying to find out whether the two arrested have ties with West African organized crime, "which has been responsible for an escalating number of financial crimes in the United States," according to the Philly Inquirer article. The Secret Service has apparently even opened an office in Nigeria to work with Nigerian police on the problem.
Olug Bemiga Olusato tried to bite off his fingertips while in jail, to prevent identification.
James V. Washington, who is in charge of the Philadelphia office of the Secret Service, said "...In these cases, the suspects have so many identities, you often never know who they are."
I thought about that after I read it. "Who they are." Does he mean, what names they were christened? What names are on their birth certificates, in Nigeria? What village they came from? What can it possibly matter? We know who they are. They are foreign nationals, and criminal suspects. We see them in one slice of time, in a particular place in the world, using certain names. That is who they are. We are interested in their activities during that slice of time. How can 'who they are' outside of it make any difference? To us, they are who they are, and what they did, now.
I suppose it matters, in the sense that it may be useful to tie them to other criminals or other criminal acts. The names they used in Nigeria may be important in that respect, but they won't give us any more insight into 'who they are'. They are their actions.
Watashi wa, dare?
I've had a couple of identities myself. To the net, I've been Slithy Tove for a number of years, and Tove has developed his own personality. To my friends and colleagues, I'm the mild-mannered and absent-minded Dr. S----------. I've written some fanfics under another name yet. I've played Quake and Tribes on-line as Shinji-kun, Wind and Rain, KazeToAme, Shin-jin, and a few other identities. I've played Everquest as Inuyasha, the supercilious High Elven wizard; Gilead Stonechapel, the benevolent Dwarven cleric; Gorbag, the Evul Troll Shadow Nite, to name a few.
To my relatives, I'm someone else entirely, and most of them probably wouldn't recognize me as the cheerful Gilead with his heal spells, or the sullen Wind and Rain with her rocket launcher. I'll bet my relatives wouldn't recognize me as described by my ex-wife (she'd probably describe someone rather like Gorbag). And old girlfriends wouldn't recognize either my relatives' picture of me, or the ex-wife's.
The guys I knew in college wouldn't recognize the person I am today. The kids in knew in childhood wouldn't recognize any of me above the age of 10. Even the people who knew me two to three years ago, before I made my break with academia, would be astonished as what my life is like today.
When you think about it, I've probably had more identities than those Nigerians. Which me is real? The question is meaningless. Each identity was real as anything at the time I used it. Each was an aspect of myself. If you think the name attached to my physical body by legal paperwork or the guy who dated Ms. N------- last weekend is a more true representation of 'who' I am than Gilead Stonechapel, you are mistaken. I am my own Sybil, not someone with 'multiple personality disorder', but with multiple personality soup, a lava light of identities, an SPCA puppy pound of identities, all running around and yapping, all different sizes and colors and temperaments. Every once in a while one will come up to the fence and try to lick your hand through the wire, before being pushed away by another.
I'm not unique. I think most human beings are like this. Don't you?
Anata wa, dare?
Anata wa, dare?
Anata wa, dare?