Independent agents with false identities -- how possible is this?

There are a bunch of folks (usually assasins and the like) in spy novels and movies who manage to independently gather a set of false identities that somehow pass muster when going through airport security, renting/buying appartments, opening/closing bank accounts, etc.

How realistic is this? I know that if you work for a government, it must be pretty easy to produce fake documents and identities, but as a private agent? How good are the forging places? How do you find these places? How easy is it to acquire their services (do you have to be under the employ of their criminal organization?)? How often do people engage in and get caught for this type of thing?

If I went out right now and got a bunch of forged documents at one of the best forging places, can I start using my new identity right away? Or will this be flagged by computers as having no previous record?

It seems to me that the movies and novels might be full of shit; it can’t be THAT easy, can it?

In the U.S., at least, you don’t need to forge anything. Go to your friendly local courthouse and cross-reference birth and death records.

Pick some deceased person of the appropriate age and apply for a replacement birth certificate. Then use the birth certificate to get a Social Security card and driver’s license. Once you’ve got those, open a bank account, get a few credit cards, and you’re off and running.

There have been a couple of TV specials that documented dozens of people who did just what I outlined above. Simple, quick, and you don’t have to deal with other crooks to acquire your new identity.

Hmm… interesting… You can (legally) get a birth certificate for someone other than yourself? If so, then how can it be that it’s all you need to get a SS card?

I know we don’t want to do an identity theft seminar in here, but there are SOME checks and balances against what John Carter mentions, including a master list of dead people’s SS Numbers.
Still, none of these checks are simple. Some of the requirements for having ID issued hjave gotten tightened somewhat recently.

I don’t think it’s legal, but it is pretty easy.

Think how many cases of identity theft happen daily. It is clearly not that difficult. And once you start talking about other countries, the gutter is the limit.

In most cases that I’ve seen, it’s easy to get a non-certified copy. To get a certified one, required for most official needs like obtaining ID, is a bit tougher.