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What It Involves Pretending to Be Someone Else Online and Is It Legal in USA

is it illegal to impresonate someone online

In our articles, we repeatedly mention the impact of technology on us and that often its development is used by fraudsters to achieve their goals. There is no doubt that fraud is a crime but not all organizers are caught by the police. However, today we will talk about a crime that is being fought in all 50 states of the United States. Is impersonating someone illegal? Yes, it is. Even using someone else’s name when meeting a girl or boyfriend can be a crime. But what kind of responsibility will come: civil or criminal? It already depends on the circumstances of the case and the state. Is it illegal to pretend to be someone else online? Yes, it is. Remember that according to the legal system, there is no single civil and criminal code. Therefore, relying on the laws of California in Texas is a disastrous business. Also, this crime is closely related to identity theft. We will tell you what exactly it includes and how to protect yourself. Enjoy the reading!

Is It Illegal to Pretend to Be Someone Else?

is it illegal to impersonate someone

From a non-legal point of view, impersonating someone online or offline is immoral. Therefore, it is also right to assume that it is illegal. However, what exactly is meant by this offense? It usually includes the following:

  • Obtaining financial or other benefits;
  • Creating legal or other problems for the person whose name you are using;
  • Obtaining a loan or opening a bank account in someone else’s name and more.

There are many ways of pretending to be someone else online or offline. For example, provide incorrect information to the authorities, or pretend to be a police officer or government employee. Some states even attribute the wrong date of birth to the offense. For example, persons under the age of 21 are prohibited from drinking. And you claim that you already have 21 but in fact, 17. This is a crime, and it is often accompanied by forgery.

Is it illegal to impersonate someone online? We have already said that yes. Incidentally, Oklahoma was the first to pass such a law. Stealing someone’s name, voice, photograph, or other information to create a fake identity on social media has been considered a crime since 2016. And victims can claim injunctive relief and pecuniary damages.

At the federal level, pretending to be someone else online disorder is also regulated. For example, it is forbidden to impersonate:

  • US citizen;
  • Federal government official or employee;
  • Someone is authorized to make an arrest or search;
  • US lender;
  • Foreign diplomat, consul or officer, and others;
  • Member or agent of the American Red Cross.

Is It Illegal to Pretend to Be Someone Else over the Phone?

During phone scam calls, to gain our confidence, the scammers represent themselves as a government official or a volunteer who conducts a social survey. There are thousands of options. However, this is not legal anyway. You are being misled for personal or financial gain. And the person whose name is being used loses his/her reputation and possibly money. Let’s assume that your personal data has been stolen and a fraudster gains access to your email. The fraudster calls the bank, introduces himself as you, and transfers a large amount of money to an account unknown to you. You find out about the loss of money and contact the bank to find out the situation. And those claiming that it was you who operated, passed all levels of verification. Also, the bank may even provide a recording of your telephone conversation. Unfortunately, such cases are not uncommon and if a scammer can be caught, then it is not always possible to recover the damage.

Is It Illegal to Pretend to Be Someone Else on Facebook?

Scams on Facebook are not uncommon and pretending to be someone else online can be one of them. When creating a fake page, you will use other name, photos. And even if your goal is not financial gain, this can be problematic. Let’s imagine the situation. You have created an account named Dylan O’Brien. If you only use the name and your photos in your profile, then we can assume that you are just the same name. However, the problem may arise if you:

  • Used his photographs;
  • Entered his personal data as their own (date of birth, marital status, religion, etc.).

That is, you pretend to be him. Is impersonating someone a crime? Yes, but it is a more serious crime if you try or make false statements on behalf of this person. Even an attempt to deceive people in this way is a reason for contacting the police.

Pretending to Be Someone Else Online: Types

is impersonating someone a crime

There are usually four main types. Among which:

  • Defamation. This means spreading false statements about you that can damage your reputation. For example, on behalf of you or on behalf of a close friend who might know the information.
  • Harassment. This means that someone is when someone impersonates you to threaten or harm another person. For example, you are influenced by the authority of the person you are afraid of and require you to take actions that you do not want.
  • Posing as a civil servant or police officer during his duties. For example, for the purpose of getting information from witnesses or a victim of a crime.
  • False light. In this case, a person posing as another presents information in such a way as to mislead you. For example, they talk about getting a loan, but they change the real reason why they took it.

Impersonating Someone Online: penalties 

If you are the victim of such a crime, then you should pay attention to the laws of the state. For example, in Texas, pretending to be someone else online disorder can be classified as Class C Misdemeanors (up to a $500 fine), Class B Misdemeanor (up to 180 days in the jail and a fine of up to $2,000), and Class A Misdemeanor (up to one year in the jail and a fine of up to $4,000). 

Penal Code of California stated that pretending to be someone else online is a false impersonation crime. It can be both a misdemeanor or a felony. In the first case, the punishment can be imprisonment for up to one year, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. And in the second, imprisonment for 16 months, two years, or three years, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.

Impersonating Someone Online: What to Do If You Are a Victim

is it illegal to pretend to be someone else

Even if you have doubts that you have interpreted illegal behavior correctly, it is best to document what is happening. This will provide you with many ways to protect yourself. You need to do:

  • Take screenshots of all actions that seemed suspicious to you;
  • Collect all the correspondence between you in a file, noting all events; 
  • If you are faced with threats, harassment, or any other danger, immediately contact the police and provide the evidence you have collected. You can also contact a lawyer who specializes in pretending to be someone else online: disorder.

Is it illegal to impersonate someone? Definitely, it is. You can become a victim of someone who is being deceived or whose personal data is being used. In any case, do not be silent and get away with it, especially if there are other victims of such deception. Have you ever faced somebody impersonating someone online? If so, share in the comments. Thank you for reading the article to the end. We hope it was interesting for you. See you soon!

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Author of article

Tatiana Sharapova

Interests: music, finance, cinema, art

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