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Multiple Identity IDs

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The contents of Jason Bourne's red 'burn bag'.

A person usually has one legal name and hence one of each type of ID with that name. After all, that's the point of an identity document: to distinguish a particular person, including categorizing them by their nationality. When someone has several (three or more) of the same kind of identity document, that's a sign there's some kind of chicanery going on. The person may be a spy, or they're involved in some sort of fraud or confidence game.

This trope generally plays out one of two ways: a person has multiple examples of the same type of identification when they should only have one (several US driver's licenses from different states, or several passports from different countries), or the person has multiple forms of ID with different names on them, usually visually linked by having photos of the same person. In either case, the collection of identity documents implies that this person is involved in something shady.

Often another character makes the discovery, with the audience either privy to it or hearing about it in later dialogue. Sometimes though, no other character is shown finding the IDs, rather the person who has them is shown to audience retrieving the collection or selecting one of them for use. If the person discovering the cache of documents is seeing pictures of themselves on the IDs and doesn't know why, then Amnesiac Dissonance is probably in play.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The first episode of Eden of the East has the amnesiac Akira discover a bunch of passports with his face on them — in this case, they are all Japanese passports, but each has a different name on them, leading Akira to speculate that he might be a spy/assassin/terrorist. Since Akira is a Pop-Cultured Badass, he specifically references the Bourne films.

    Comic Books 
  • In Red Robin, Tim is carrying a few sets of IDs on him as he travels the world tracking down the clues to Bruce's location. It's a good thing he is because Ra's al Ghul burns Tim's Go-to Alias pretty quickly by getting him on international wanted lists as a violent thief.
  • Robin (1993): To avoid being caught as he’s on multiple wanted lists, the villain Jaeger has a number of IDs, one such being Dieter Hohenzollren, and he's rather annoyed when Robin hands the GCPD his real name.
  • The "Brief Lives" arc of The Sandman (1989) begins with a number of unnaturally long-lived people unexpectedly dying. One of them has a son who discovers a stash of passports and other ID documents in different names that he'd accumulated since the beginning of civilization and eventually decides to destroy them.

    Fan Works 
  • In Parthenogenesis, Maggie first realizes that her mother Carmen Sandiego is after breaking into her safe and finding, amongst other things, various passports for both of them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Accountant (2016). After Christian Wolff saves Dana Cummings from assassins, he takes her to the vintage trailer home he has stashed in a storage locker. She starts looking in drawers and finds gold bars, bundles of high denomination bills, and first edition comics and baseball cards. When Wolff interrupts her prying, he opens another drawer and we see a row of passports and credit cards as well. Dana naturally blurts out Who Are You?
  • The Batman (2022). When the Riddler is finally arrested, the police find two different driver's licenses on him, one for Patrick Parker and the other for Edward Nashton.
    Policeman: Which one is you?
    Riddler: (giggles) You tell me.
  • The Bourne Identity. The protagonist has amnesia, so is relieved when he finds a US passport in the name of Jason Bourne in a safety deposit box. He then goes on to discover a pistol, a lot of cash, and several passports from different countries, all with his face but different names.
  • Charade: As Reggie Lampert is being questioned about her husband Charles' death, the inspector begins holding up several passports from different countries, each bearing Charles' picture and a different name. Later she laments that for years all she knew about him was his name, and now it turns out she didn't even know that.
  • The protagonist of Duplicity is a Double Agent and has a box with several passports and stacks of different currencies stashed away in his apartment.
  • The Family: When Warren is planning to run away so his family don't get in trouble with the Feds, he is rummaging through the house when only he and Belle are home, gathering stashes that are hidden but also a multitude of fake IDs. Not only are they of different kinds, the different identities have a collection of nationalities. Belle then catches him and comments on the quality of one of the fake passports. It's surprising she, or anyone else, hadn't noticed before, though, because they were collected in a drawer in (rather) plain sight.
  • Lord of War: Yuri mentions that he used a French, British, Israeli, and Ukrainian passport, along with a student visa for the United States, "but that's another story."
  • Tomb Raider (2018): While going through her father's research on Himiko, Lara discovers he has multiple passports from different countries, each with a different name, causing her to realize he was up to something possibly shady and/or dangerous.

  • Early in The Bourne Identity, the amnesiac Jason Bourne discovers a bunch of passports with his face on them, which is one of his first hints that he was involved in something shady before he had amnesia. It turns out that Jason Bourne doesn't exist and is a front used to take credit for a bunch of unrelated killings, and the guy who "played" Bourne had to memorize all of these cover details- which is the stuff he started remembering after getting amnesia.
  • The Day of the Jackal: The unnamed Professional Killer hired to assassinate Charles De Gaulle acquires several fake identities as part of his meticulous preparations. He turns out to need all of them as the manhunt by the French and British authorities exposes one after another. In fact, the reader never discovers who the Jackal really is — the only major clue turns out to be yet another false identity.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday. After Friday kills a man who was following her, she finds a passport, an assortment of credit cards, and other IDs on him. They have four different names: "Adolf Belsen", "Albert Beaumont", "Arthur Bookman" and "Archibald Buchanan".
  • The Murderbot Diaries. Murderbot steals the bug-out bag of a couple of mercenaries it has a run-in with in Rogue Protocol. Among other useful goodies, the bag contains subdermal ID chips in various cover identities. As Murderbot is a Rogue Drone it finds this useful for getting past security scanners.
  • In A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey, Herbert Gotobed is a con artist who has run religious scams across the world. When the police catch up with him, they find among his belongings four passports from three different countries, all with different names.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Diplomatic Immunity, a suspicious character is arrested and found to be in possession of IDs in a variety of names. In a variation, only a few of them have his face on; it turns out that the others belonged to his deceased partners, whose deaths he is out to avenge.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Early on in The Blacklist, the protagonist, Elizabeth Keen, discovers a box buried in the yard which contains a bunch of cash, a gun, and various passports with her husband, Tom's face on them. Tom is a mild-mannered teacher, but evidence starts to mount that he's actually an assassin. A later episode of the show clears Tom/indicates he was set up, but later on, it turns out he really is a spy and assassin.
  • CSI: NY: The seasons 4 & 5 cliffhanger involves a bank robber who takes Mac hostage and will only tell him that his name is "Joe." In the second part, the team finds the man's stash of passports from various countries, all with his picture but different names. Adam eventually determines which one of them isn't a fake, and it's not the one with "Joe" as his first name.
  • Imposters focuses on Maddie, a professional con artist who marries marks under a variety of identities and takes them for their cash. The beginning of season 2 has an on-the-run Maddie hitting a storage locker that is packed with dozens of fake identities (complete with social security cards), cell phones, disguises, and what appears to be thousands of dollars in cash in various currencies.
  • Leverage: Hardison made each member of the team several alternate identities, complete with identifying documents, for any cons they may need to run.
  • Lost: Ben's house in the Barracks has a secret room that has multiple passports for him, along with large amounts of different currency.
  • In the pilot of Lost Girl, Bo has to go on the run after killing a man who tried to roofie and rape Kenzi. She's shown burning or packing her clothes, and removing a plastic wrapped bag from hiding containing alternate ID's. Ironically she can't identify who Kenzi is either.
    Bo: I would have dropped you home, but none of these wallets appear to be yours.
    Kenzi: I'm a collector of rare wallets.
  • Inverted in an episode of Mad About You where Paul, Ira, Fran, and Lisa all get college IDs with Jamie's name on them when they try to help Paul cover the fact that he hadn't sent in Jamie's college application when he was supposed to. They all sign up for classes in Jamie's name, and they all have to get their ID at the end of the process.
  • The Amnesiac Dissonance version comes into play in Moon Knight when British museum employee Steven Grant is horrified to learn that not only does he have a split personality called Marc Spector, but Marc has a possibly-genuine American passport.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "The Annoying Red Planet", Brackenreid, Murdoch, and Crabtree are searching the last known digs of a dead man when Brackenreid finds several passports for the man in different names, one of which is that of a conman that Higgins mentioned at the start of the episode. It turns out the man was a French spy checking out a military dirigible project, and he was killed at the orders of the Canadian government agent running the operation — one Terrence Myers.
  • Early in Orphan Black, Sarah Manning impersonates her look-alike (who had just committed suicide), Beth Childs, and posing as Beth, goes to the Bank to steal Beth's money. In Beth's safety deposit box, Sarah discovers a bunch of passports with her/Beth's face on them. It turns out that Sarah, Beth, and all these other people are clones.
  • In the pilot of Person of Interest, the hero John Reese is equipped with six different cover identities by his Mysterious Employer Harold Finch. Finch himself has numerous cover identities — while his name really is Harold, he hasn't answered to his full legal name since high school, because the FBI is still angry with him over that time he hacked the Arpanet with a homemade computer and a plastic whistle. In fact, the audience never discovers the true last name of either Harold or John.
  • The Pretender: In the episode "Jarod's Honor", one of the indications that tells Jarod (and the audience) that the hitman isn't just an innocent traveler is that he has multiple driver's licenses in his luggage, each from a different state and bearing a different name, but all with the same photo.
  • In Remington Steele, Laura Holt discovers "Steele" has multiple passports, each with a name of a character portrayed by Humphrey Bogart. It not only indicates his shady past as a con man, it helps keep going the Running Gag that no one knows his real name.
  • Happens in Belgian cop/political thriller Salamander. A hitman working for the Salamander groupnote  loves to play dangerously. He seduces the daughter of one of his employers. Later in the night, she gets curious about the man and checks out his home. She discovers a drawer full of passports of various nationalities and names — all with his face.
  • The Smallville version of The Flash is a young conman with a bunch of different IDs under various aliases, including Jay Garrick, Wally West, and Barry Allen.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment Earth". Gary Seven uses his computer to create a variety of IDs for U.S. governmental agencies, including that of a colonel in both the CIA and NSA and a lieutenant in the NYPD Homicide department.
  • Supernatural: As the brothers often need to impersonate authority figures to get the information they need to solve their cases, they have a pile of various IDs including FBI and CDC, plus they stock fake health insurance cards for if they ever have to go to the hospital (and Dean has fake business cards he uses to pick up women, like Hollywood talent scout). In a variation, Bobby also has multiple phones at his house labeled as government agencies, which he uses to pretend to be other hunters' superiors and back up their stories in case real cops ever get suspicious.
  • In season nine of Trailer Park Boys, after an alleged retired SAS Colonel is hired to provide security for the park (now a retirement village). Randy searches his room and finds several fake IDs and a real Canadian Forces ID revealing Colonel Dancer is actually a Private in a local Reserve regiment.
  • Wiseguy. Mob boss Sonny Steelgrave isn't happy to find that Vinnie Terranova has a driver's license showing that he lived for a time in Quantico, where they train federal agents. Vinnie uses this trope to explain it away; he has multiple IDs from different states because if he's asked for ID by a cop from one state, he shows a driver's license from another to make it look like he's just passing through.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun: Fake System Identification Numbers are standard Runner equipment, the higher the rating the better it will stand up to close inspection (and more expensive). It also helps that most Runners don't have legitimate SINs in the first place, either from being born outside the system, losing their SIN in one of the crashes, or burning it when they turned to a life of crime.

    Video Games 
  • One entrant in Papers, Please will accidentally hand you two passports. They'll both have his photo, but different names and countries of origin. Your "detain" button pops up immediately. Subverted with several other entrants, who have a different name on supporting documents, claiming I Have Many Names if this is pointed out. A fingerprint check usually clears this up, showing the person's known identities and fingerprints on file.

    Western Animation 
  • Carmen Sandiego: After Carmen learns the truth about her father, she breaks into his old safety deposit box in a bank and finds his stash of alternate IDs and a locket with a picture of him holding her as a baby. We never see Carmen's stash, but it must exist because she's able to move between countries without alerting authorities who know her name.
  • On the Gravity Falls episode "Not What He Seems", Grunkle Stan is arrested and the twins look inside his office for proof of his innocence. One of the things they find is a box full of fake IDs, which was explained in the following episode, "A Tale of Two Stans", as him having to change his identity every time he was run out of town for selling shoddy merchandise.
  • Green Eggs and Ham: In "There", when Bad Guys tell Guy-Am-I that his friend Sam-I-Am is a wanted felon, they show him several "Wanted" posters for several of his aliases, including the Furry Foot Bandit, Flim-Flam-I-Am, Sham Shamford, and Dr. Linda Schwartz.
    Sam: I'll tell her you're innocent. She'll believe me.
    Guy: Oh, really, Mr. "Furry Foot Bandit"? Who's she supposed to believe? "Hector Jive"?! "Bamboozle McHoaxypants"?!
    Sam: I only use "Bamboozle McHoaxypants" for hotels.
  • The Simpsons: In "Mother Simpson", Bart begins to think something is amiss when he meets his long-lost paternal grandmother for the first time, and finds she has multiple driving licenses. It turns out she's running from the law ever since she and her hippie friends sabotaged a germ warfare lab in the 1960s.
    Bart: Yeah, I don't trust her either. When I was going through her purse, look what I found. [gives Lisa some fake IDs]
    Lisa: "Mona Simpson", "Mona Stevens", "Martha Stewart", "Penelope Olsen", "Muddy Mae Suggins"? These are the calling cards of a con artist!


Video Example(s):



Bourne finds a safe deposit box in his name with cash, a gun and several passports from multiple nations and different names, but all his photo.

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Main / MultipleIdentityIDs

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