A serial imposter consistently lies about his or her background and creates
various identities. The most famous recently discovered serial imposter
is Christian Gerhartsreiter, a.k.a. Clark Rockefeller, Christopher Chichester
and other aliases. His true identity came to the attention of the public
in a highly publicized parental kidnapping case in 2009. Although he was
using the name Clark Rockefeller and had been convincing wealthy, well-connected
people that he belonged among the wealthy and famous, he had grown up
in an undistinguished middle class family in Germany.
His compelling story in the book,
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall
of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal and in the TV movie "Who Is Clark Rockefeller?"
There is even a lengthy Wikipedia entry on him. He was also prosecuted
in Los Angeles in 2011 with murdering a landlady's son and daughter-in-law
in 1985, who resided in San Marino, California.
There is nothing inherently illegal about creating a new identity. The
legality of doing so depends on why the identity is being used. Obviously,
pretending to be Marilyn Monroe or President Obama for Halloween is not
illegal. But the false identity cannot be used to defraud others. It is
also illegal to impersonate particular classes of people. For example,
Rick Strandlof, another serial imposter, told all of his friends that
he was a Jewish oil-and-gas attorney named Rick Gold.
It wasn't illegal to pretend to be Rick Gold. (He made the name up
and he wasn't actually practicing law.) But when he posed as a decorated
war hero named Rick Duncan, he violated the Stolen Valor Act, a Federal
Law that makes it illegal to impersonate a war hero. Another serial imposter,
Randall Keyser, was convicted of impersonating police officers (illegal
in most states) and war heroes over a span of many years. Keyser claimed
he did so for employment purposes – 22 different times – under
various names in numerous states. There are also various situations in
which it is illegal to use an alias, for example, when asked for identification
by a police officer, when traveling by airplane or when applying for credit
or requesting medical care.