The scariest thing about identity theft is how easy it can be for someone to be impersonated. A quick root through the weekly garbage can sometimes be all that a con artist needs to take on the identity of an innocent victim and rack up debt in their name, or even steal their assets. Perhaps there is some comfort in the fact that celebrities aren’t immune to this problem, and indeed at times are deliberately targeted by the identity thieves. When your own name is at the core of your personal business, and squarely in the public eye, maybe you’re more likely to fall victim to this kind of white collar crime than most – though the thieves are also more prone to getting busted.
10. Tiger Woods
Despite a striking lack of resemblance to the world-famous golfer, Anthony Lemar Taylor managed to successfully impersonate him. Taylor used Woods’ social security number and date of birth to get a drivers’ license in the golfer’s real name, Eldrick T Woods, and from there, credit cards. He got himself $17,000 worth of presents including a luxury car and a 70-inch TV. However, there’s unlikely to be any room for those falsely obtained goods in prison, where Taylor was sentenced to spend the next 200 years, or life, whichever comes sooner. Talk about landing in the bunker.
9. Ty Law
Former New England Patriots star Ty Law thought that all he had to worry about was the next big game. What he didn’t know was that Jonathan Hoskins, a complete stranger, had managed to get a driving license from the state of Ohio in Law’s name using a copy of the football star’s birth certificate. Hoskins then used the license to withdraw $10,000 from Law’s account – not once, but twice! Adding insult to injury, he then had the cheek to sign autographs as Ty Law before making his getaway. Hoskins was busted when he tried to pull the same trick on Kevin Mitchell of the Washington Redskins and was sentenced to 1 year in prison.
8. Ricky Gervais
Using information gained from bank insiders, a dead pensioner’s passport and a picture of Ricky Gervais cut out of a DVD box, two men stole £200,000 from the British funnyman’s bank account. The next step in their plan was to exchange the cash for gold bars, but the entire scheme was foiled by the gold dealer, a huge fan of the Extras star. When one of the thieves telephoned to arrange the sale, he claimed to be Gervais, but the dealer didn’t recognize the voice and alerted the authorities. Gervais’ fame saved him a pretty penny.
7. Ruben Studdard
Poor Ruben Studdard wasn’t conned by a stranger – his own manager decided to fleece him for more than $250,000. The American Idol winner accused his adviser and godfather, Ronald W. Edwards, of using his credit cards, improperly accessing his bank accounts and even using his money to pay off a $10,000 loan. The courts decided in Studdard’s favor, awarding him a total of $2 million in losses and punitive damages. Studdard needs to be more careful who he trusts with his ATM card.
6. Michael Bloomberg
New York City mayors often try to portray themselves as tough on crime. So imagine Michael Bloomberg’s horror when he found that he himself had been the victim of identity theft. Charles Nelson used an online transaction to net himself $10,000 from the mayor’s personal account. Meanwhile, Odalis Bostic tried to deposit two fake checks from the same personal account into his own, one for $190,000 and one for $230,000. Banking officials smelled a rat, but it was only during the investigation of Bostic that they found evidence of Nelson’s crime.
5. Lily Allen
The English pop-star Lily Allen always had a weakness for cab rides, using them to travel all around London. But imagine her surprise when she saw a bill for $7,500 worth of taxi journeys, none of which she’d taken. It probably wasn’t close to the confusion she must have felt when she saw that many of the journeys were to and from strip clubs. It turns out that a stripper stole the details of her account with the taxi company and used Lily’s money for her own transportation.
4. Will Smith
Carlos Lomax charged over $30,000 worth of purchases to Willard C. Smith – the legal name of the actor famous ever since his days as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Lomax used a total of 14 fake accounts to make the purchases and was apprehended when Will Smith’s business manager noticed over $5,000 dollars in charges payable to Sears. The identity thief was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his crimes.
3. Steve Smith
It seems that Carlos Lomax really didn’t like people named Smith – or liked their names rather too much! When Lomax was arrested for the identity theft of Will Smith, it turned out he was already on probation for the theft of another Smith’s identity. Lomax had managed to take out an American Express card in the name of Steve Smith, the Atlanta Hawks basketball player turned TV commentator. He racked up an impressive $81,000 in Smith’s name before he was finally caught.
2. Liv Tyler
People often tell their hairstylists and beauticians intimate details about their lives, but it seems that you can’t trust anybody these days. Liv Tyler was just one of a host of A-list clients whom beautician Maria Gabriela Perez, owner of the Beverly Hills salon Chez Gabriela Studio, swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perez used their credit card information for her own gain, netting over $200,000 from Tyler alone. Among her other victims were Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway, Melanie Griffith and Cher.
1. Oprah Winfrey
As a teenager, Abraham Abdallah appeared in an anti-fraud video for the State of New York. Clearly this brush with fame gave him an idea, as years later he used Forbes Magazine’s rich-list as his hunting ground for identity theft victims. His copy of the magazine was filled with home addresses, social security numbers and other personal information. The restaurant busboy used personal details to convince banks and brokerage firms to authorize purchases from his victims’ accounts. Apart from Oprah Winfrey, his targets included Martha Stewart, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet and Ross Perot. He was finally apprehended when his greed and ambition spurred him to attempt to move $10 million of software tycoon Thomas Siebel’s money.