Most people are aware of the need to protect themselves from identity theft, but there are some who remain vulnerable despite precautions—fictional characters. Statistics show identity theft against fictional characters has doubled since 2018. Criminals are filling out credit card applications and loan paperwork in the names of well-known characters and ruining their credit in the process.
“These victims are extremely vulnerable,” says Al Ias of the Federal Trade Commission. “We tell people to guard their privacy, but their lives are an open book. It makes them easy prey.”
Easy prey is not how Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy likes to be described. In 2019, fraudsters purchased three tons of pineapples on credit using his name. According to local townspeople, Mr. Darcy’s mother-in-law had bragged far and wide about his £10,000 a year income, making him an alluring target for thieves who used his information on a Bank of Derbyshire Credit Card Application.
This happened one year after Mr. Jay Gatsby was targeted. Relying on his stellar financial reputation, crooks were able to open a medical account in his name and purchase thousands of pairs of eyeglasses from Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. In both cases, thieves made off with millions in fraudulent, fictional dollars and pounds.
Does it really matter to these fictional characters that others are getting rich on their good names? Yes, it does.
“We can’t have our heroes hampered by bad credit,” says Regina Jennings, author of Courting Misfortune. “Identity theft devastates a person’s financial reputation and hurts their romantic prospects. Their property might be fictional, but it’s the only property they have.”
So what can be done to protect fictional characters? Mainly, guard their private information. Authors should carefully consider before sharing too much of their background. The public doesn’t need to know their mother’s maiden name or their birthplace. Also, specifics on birth dates should be avoided. An innocent party scene can be used by fraudsters to determine their birth date and give criminals another tool with which to defraud them. Even pets’ names should be used sparingly. Consider giving fictional characters a fictional, fictional dog instead of sharing their real fictional dog’s name.
While it might take some time and forethought to safeguard our fictional friends, we owe it to them. There can be serious consequences for victims of identity theft, from being included in a criminal investigation, to losing a tax rebate, to finding one’s credit ruined. They, like everyone else, deserve justice and protection. They trust us with their stories. Let’s not leave them defenseless.