Impersonation and identity theft are no laughing matter. Except when it's a horse wearing a top hat trying to be people. That's goddamn hilarious. Also, in the cases below.
NASA wants you to know that being an astronaut is hard. It takes incredible intelligence, amazing physical conditioning and a strong psyche. Only a chosen few ever qualify.
Do you feel lucky?
Something you'd think NASA would be aware of when some random doofus calls them and claims to be one, but maybe commercial airline pilot Jerry Alan Whittredge was just very convincing.
After claiming to be a CIA agent with the Congressional Medal of Honor AND a member of the next shuttle mission, Whittredge convinced the folks at the Space Center in Alabama to give him an exclusive tour.
To be fair, he was wearing an appropriate costume.
Come on, NASA has rocket science and crap to work on! You can't expect these highly educated people, some of the most intelligent on Earth, to check resumes before handing over classified information about the shuttle's propulsion system to some schmuck they don't know. And while they're at it, you can't expect them to NOT let an unqualified stranger sit at Mission Control during a shuttle mission.
But Jerry wasn't just satisfied with hoodwinking NASA. He also convinced the Navy to give him training on a T-45 flight simulator.
It should be noted here that a T-45 flight "simulator" is an actual flying jet. Seriously.
Jerry just seems to have that special mix of crazy and ballsy that lets him fool both NASA and the Navy for the thankfully brief span of... eight months.
So, to recap, both NASA and the Navy--staffed by folks highly trained in keeping secrets and checking backgrounds--were fooled into giving tours of top-secret facilities and discussing very sensitive information with a guy who, when busted, insisted Bill Clinton was his lawyer.
And How Did That Work Out For Him?
Even in a pre-9/11 world, the one group you don't want to really mess with is the U.S. government. Once caught, Whitrredge faced up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine for impersonating a federal employee.
All that and he never even got to go to space.
Wendy Brown, like most people, had some regrets about high school. But where most of us wish we'd not worn multi-colored, one-strapped overalls backwards, her big regret was that she didn't become a cheerleader. But as a 33-year-old mom with a history of identity theft charges, surely that dream of shaking her pompoms at high school boys was way beyond her reach. Or was it?
She would blend in seamlessly.
Wendy had a few tricks up her sleeve. First, she had a 15-year-old daughter who, thankfully, didn't live at home. Second, Wendy lived through the great Body Switching Movies Era of the 80s, a time when any stressed out adult with a regret or two could magically trade places with his or her son or daughter. Having no access to the demon wizardry that made those switches possible, she settled for the next best thing: pretending to be her daughter and enrolling in high school. So she could become a cheerleader.
Her yearbook photo was not flattering.
And How Did That Work Out For Her?
Not so awesome. Unless you consider felony identity theft charges and the ridicule of a nation "awesome," in which case, yeah... things turned out great! According to high school officials, despite looking like a world-weary truck driver with smoker's growl, her demeanor was that of a high school girl.
This woman earned a spot on the cheer squad. Presumably, there wasn't a lot of competition.
And what's even creepier was the fact that Brown inhabited her daughter so completely that she talked about being sad about moving out of Nevada and missing her friends.
Even creepier still, she didn't actually get caught until her check for her cheerleading uniform bounced. Had it not, she'd probably still be there, in her mid-30s, ragging about how her parents get her down while secretly experiencing her first symptoms of pre-menopause.
In August 2000, the stage manager of a Hong Kong classical venue got a call from someone asking if he would he be interested in booking the entire Moscow Philharmonic for a couple of shows. As the Moscow Philharmonic is among the most respected orchestras in the world, the manager pretty much took this as a gift from the gods of Hong Kong (Buddhas?) and enthusiastically said yes.
So this large orchestra came, rehearsed and performed in front of about 10,000 Hong Kongians. And then they left, no doubt with unknowingly-impregnated groupies in their wake. All's well that ends well, yeah? Not exactly. Because they weren't actually the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.
The real MPH was touring Europe, and members were pretty shocked to read about their great performances in Hong Kong, which, after two weeks of research, we discovered is not in Europe.
The yellow sections are verified as "Not Europe."
Research for the orange section is ongoing.
So apparently a very large, very talented group of Russian con men put together an insanely spot-on impersonation that fooled thousands of people.
And How Did That Work Out For Them?
It turns out this is something you can totally get away with. Seriously, try it.
You'll need a furry hat. Mustaches are encouraged but not mandatory.
To this day, no one knows who these people were, where they came from or where they went. All anyone knows is that they were probably Russian musicians who couldn't cut it with the real Philharmonic, that they made over $30,000 from their Hong Kong concerts, and that they played well enough to fool 10,000 people, including the critics who gave them great reviews.