Belgian Banks Pull Crazy Identity Theft Stunt for Phishing PSA

Identity Theft

In a striking example of what AdWeek calls "cautionary prankvertising," the trade group for Belgium's financial sector partnered with an award-winning ad agency to create a creepy public service announcement about the dangers of identity theft: an ad that dramatizes the hijacking of a real person's life.

As the spot begins, a mysterious man in a suit explains that we all lead two parallel lives: one in the world and the other online. To illustrate the inherent dangers of being careless in the latter one, the man proceeds to steal the identity of 35-year-old Bruges resident Tom Degroote. All it takes is a Facebook (FB) friend request -- foolishly accepted by Tom -- and a phishing attack, which Tom falls for, confirming the details of his bank account.

Then, the man explains, just "one fake call" can "empty his account." The man purports to make fraudulent purchases in Tom's name -- booking a hotel room in London, ordering an antique harp -- and uses facial prosthetics molded after Tom's Facebook photos to impersonate him.

Not to spoil the ad entirely, but Tom, increasingly bewildered and concerned, is eventually confronted by his doppelgänger, who shares some suitably admonitory messages while peeling off his second skin. Check out the spot below:

The ad was commissioned by Febelfin, a federation of Belgium's financial sector, which also set up an accompanying safe banking website.

The agency that made the ad, Duval Guillaume Modem, is famous for its stunt campaigns, some of which might be impossible to pull off in this country: According to Creativity, "laws around shocking people tend to be less tight abroad, especially in continental Europe," which explains why Duval was able to present Tom with a heart-stoppingly expensive musical instrument right outside his door.

Creativity also suggests that the ad exaggerates the extent to which Tom's personal information was actually put to use:

As for the dubious point of actually stealing money from a bank account... the agency didn't actually pilfer thousands of Euros from the victim. Duval said in an email that it used actors to "sell" the harp -- so nothing was actually bought.

Whether or not such fraudulent purchases were made, the danger is obviously real. To see how much personal information can be gleaned from the Internet, check out DailyFinance's "I Hired Someone to Spy on Me. Here's What They Found."

[H/T: Gawker]