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RJ_Anderson
03-02-2007, 06:07 AM
Say you're a humanoid alien who's traveled through a wormhole and ended up in a decent-sized North American city. You have no birth certificate, no school records, no documentation of any kind. But you have learned to speak the language reasonably well, and you have good reason to want to stay exactly where you are and not get deported (not that anyone would be able to figure out where to deport you!). There seems to be no immediate chance of you getting home, so you've got to make the best of it on Earth.

How would you go about establishing an identity for yourself? Would this be possible to do legally with a lot of patience and a plausible cover story ("I lost all my papers in a house fire") or would it be necessary to use illegal means? Is it plausible that a very smart alien with the time and patience to study our relatively primitive computers might be able to hack into various gov't databases and insert information about himself, obtain the relevant papers, etc.?

Any thoughts or insights on this would be appreciated.

rugcat
03-02-2007, 06:27 AM
This site (http://www.undercoverpress.com/new_id.html)might give you a place to start. And remember, Google is your friend.

RJ_Anderson
03-02-2007, 06:32 AM
This site (http://www.undercoverpress.com/new_id.html)might give you a place to start. And remember, Google is your friend.

Yes, I'd been assiduously googling "false identity" and "new identity" and "identification papers" and "government + identity" and everything else I could think of for about an hour before I posted this message, and all I was coming up with was stuff about credit card fraud, which really wasn't at all what I was looking for. Sometimes it just takes a different person approaching Google from a different angle to come up with the goods.

Thanks for the link!

Troo
03-02-2007, 01:01 PM
You Googled for all that for an hour? Damn, the FBI are gonna hunt you down! ;)

The best way of obtaining false identification is through criminal connections. Forgers have the experience and knowledge required to make good ID papers / documents. However if your alien has the technical expertise, there's nothing preventing him from cooking up his own fake documents after "borrowing" someone else's.

The absolute safest thing for him to do, I would imagine, is to claim to have been born a gypsy or something. If he approaches some records facility and advises that he was born within a roaming or secluded, non law-abiding population who don't bother with things like birth certificates, taxes, schools and so on, I'm sure there would be processes in place to put the "legal" stamp all over him. Not something I can help out with, not being from the USA or up for that level of research, but it's just an idea that may help :)

Puma
03-02-2007, 03:08 PM
How about faked amnesia? Haven't there been some cases where amnesiacs were never identified? That would create the option for legal new identification. Puma

Troo
03-02-2007, 04:06 PM
Ooo, I like that one!

ideagirl
03-02-2007, 07:36 PM
How would you go about establishing an identity for yourself? Would this be possible to do legally with a lot of patience and a plausible cover story ("I lost all my papers in a house fire") or would it be necessary to use illegal means? Is it plausible that a very smart alien with the time and patience to study our relatively primitive computers might be able to hack into various gov't databases and insert information about himself, obtain the relevant papers, etc.?

In this day and age (post-9/11), I highly doubt that something like "I lost all my papers" would work. And remember that to make a claim like that, you have to have already found an identity that you're trying to steal--I mean you have to know "your" name, address, birthdate etc. etc., and it has to be plausible, i.e. a birthday that makes you about the age you look; identity thieves who need an entire identity (as opposed to the kind who are just trying to commit credit card fraud) generally try to get the birth certificates of someone who was born within a couple of years of the thief, but has died. My impression is that in most such cases, they look for the birth cert and/or social security # of someone who died in childhood--that way the person whose identity they're stealing not only no longer exists to claim the identity back, but died so young that the ID thief is going to run very little risk of encountering people who could call his bluff: it's not like stealing the identity of someone who died at 30, when any of their friends, coworkers, college buddies, etc., would be able to call the thief on his bluff. So he would need to find such an identity first, before he could even try such a thing.

Also, I'm curious how this alien would know what to do. That's another reason to involve criminal connections--the alien might need a guide, as it were, into this world: someone who knows how things work on this planet and in this society, what documents you need, what a plausible story might be, and so on. Maybe the alien could get involved with a network of illegal immigrants or fugitives from the law, people who know the system well enough to help each other fly under the legal radar. Just figuring out how the heck things work could be part of the story--there would have to be a major culture clash, of sorts; everything here, the way things work here, would be completely unknown to the alien and would seem totally arbitrary. That could be an interesting subtext to the story.

Troo
03-02-2007, 08:03 PM
Do you have any friends who are cops? They're a mine of information where this kind of thing is concerned, and could at the very least point you toward the right people to ask. Failing that pop into your local station and speak to the desk sergeant if he/she isn't too busy, and they may be willing to help you out.

RJ_Anderson
03-02-2007, 09:15 PM
Thanks for all the input, guys! One of the things I should have mentioned up front is that the information I need is really twenty years old (so pre-9/11, and even pre- most computer databases) -- this is backstory for one of my characters and by the time the heroine meets him, he's been on Earth for twenty years already, passing as a normal (if eccentric) human.

My basic idea is that this guy got stranded on Earth in the mid-80's, and then blundered around getting hungrier and more confused and desperate until somebody took pity on him and sent him to a local shelter; then he started asking all kinds of bizarrely naive questions which led people to conclude he was either amnesiac or nuts, but eventually he found out the basics of what documentation and ID he would need to establish himself a bare-bones identity and get a minimum-wage job as a night janitor (he doesn't need much sleep) so he could afford basic room and board. After that he hung out in the local library all day and took computer courses for a few years, until he became a l33t haxx0r and was able to beef up his virtual identity as needed.

On the whole, though, he's a nice guy. He's not interested in hacking for mischief or money, just so he can get access to the information and contacts he needs to find his way back home. And if that means forging educational records and other credentials to get people to take him seriously, then he'll do that... but he's not interested in power or fame for its own sake, and he prefers to go about his business quietly and alone.

I should also mention that the place where he's living (and needs to stay if he's to have any chance of getting home again) is a quiet, medium-sized city in northern Ontario, and therefore unlikely to have an immigrant or fugitive network that could help him out (pity, because otherwise that would be a great idea, ideagirl!).

But I do like the idea of asking some local cops, Troo -- if I can get them to understand I'm not planning to try this myself at home! :D

Tish Davidson
03-02-2007, 09:37 PM
20 years ago, almost anyone could get a social security number. My husband's roommates at college got one for their dog as a hack. Getting a driver's license was pretty easy too. I think if you looked young, you had to show proof of age. Otherwise, you just got a vision test, written test, road test and you were on your way with a license. I can remember in college knowing people who had licenses from 2 or 3 different states, all valid.
A lot of places still didn't have picture licenses then, just a description, so you could use someone else's if you were roughly their height, weight, and coloring. You also did not have to show ID to open a bank account in many places. With an SS # and a driver's license and a bank account, your alien should be all set. Employers never asked to see your SS card back then or proof of citizenship. They just wanted an SS number - you could make up anything and they didn't care. Your alien could always claim he had a home birth rather than hospital birth to explain a missing birth certificate. You didn't have to get an SS card until you started work back then (now parents need them to claim deductions for their kid on their tax forms) and I think you had anywhere from 1 to 5 years to register a home birth (depended on state) so some irresponsible or anti-establishment parents just never bother. To successfully establish and maintain a new identity today requires a much larger set of high quality forged documents. Stolen ones may work temporarily, but depending on how they are used, maintaining the identity without getting caught might be difficult with a stolen identity.

Parkinsonsd
03-02-2007, 10:59 PM
Let me give you a hypothetical (ahem) example of what you could do 20 years ago. Exactly, 20 years, as it happens.

If you say, had a friend who had been born in a foreign country, he would have had a foreign birth certificate, and those could not really be cross checked, so you would start with that, modifying it as the case may require, you also have to put in one of those pressure stamps (which you could probably have easily fabricated given a pointed wooden stick and rubber eraser) over whatever signature you needed. Then with that, you would go to get a state identification, and from there, a social security card, credit cards, pass ports, etc. It could be and was done.

ideagirl
03-03-2007, 08:01 PM
One question--has this alien been in Ontario the whole time? Or at least in Canada? In other words, is he trying to create a CANADIAN identity? If so, the Americans who are posting answers here should keep that in mind when we give advice--I would assume their system is a little different than ours, so some of our advice may be off target just by virtue of our not being Canadian.

One thought: is there any chance he could get a menial job someplace that would make it possible for him to access records? Like, if he were a janitor at city hall, perhaps he could slip a forged birth certificate into the relevant file drawer. Then there would be one on file for him, so he could then order certified copies of his birth certificate, which would come with all the official stamps and whatnot on them...

I highly recommend Kevin Mitnick's book "The Art of Deception" for ideas on the myriad ways, both physical and computer-based, that this character could hack the system.

RJ_Anderson
03-03-2007, 10:52 PM
Yes, that's right -- it's a Canadian identity my alien needs, but I don't think the process is so radically different overall from that in the US. All this is really just so that at some point in the middle of the book he can tell the heroine in a paragraph or two how he managed to pass as human, and it will make some kind of logical sense.

I definitely like the idea of him getting a menial job at a place where he could access records, though. Thanks, ideagirl! Once more you're living up to your name. :)

Cav Guy
03-03-2007, 11:26 PM
Frederick Forsyth's earlier books (Day of the Jackal and Dogs of War) go into this to some degree for British identities.