If you’ve spent any amount of time on social networking sites in the last few years, chances are that you’ve either heard of, or experienced for yourself, catfishing. Catfishing is a serious problem with online interactions where one person deceives another through chat, in email or with video software where the other person uses the likeness of someone else. While some people use it as a way to prank their friends or unsuspecting strangers on dating websites like Tinder, there have been many instances of people getting conned out of large sums of money, or even revealing industrial secrets.
In and of itself, impersonating another person online is not illegal. However, as we previously mentioned, the actions of a catfish are usually to engage in some form of illegal activity at some point. The person with the fake profile could engage in criminal actions through infringement of intellectual property, defamation or impersonation for the use of another’s likeness, sexual violations with minors or by engaging through illegal activity with a minor or fraud. Almost anything the person does could have legal ramifications when he or she catfishes another person. If the perpetrator lives in another country, he or she may not suffer legal consequences for these actions within that location.
When the person uses the identity or convinces the target to engage in certain activities, the criminal offence of fraud is possible and likely.
The Illegal Activity
Intellectual property infringement may occur through copyright violations where the person uses copyright material at some point. Claiming ownership, using other IP to gain something from the target or using the IP to access something else could also start an instance of fraud. Pursuing a claim against the perpetrator of the actions is often difficult if he or she does not know who it is or cannot discover the culprit. However, with the assistance of a professional or a lawyer, it is possible to find the individual and take legal action such as a civil suit or inform the local law enforcement to seek justice.
Catfishing and Fraud
The catfish usually engages in fraud when he or she impersonates another person and participates in illegal activity to obtain something of benefit. This could include money, property, additional information from another person to commit additional acts of fraud or something else. The benefits are usually taken from another person through bank account details, money or other assets in some form to harm the target. If the person is only impersonating another person for contact and does nothing to take an award or item from the target, then he or she may not commit a crime.
Money or Goods
When the perpetrator that engages in catfishing attempts to acquire money or goods from a person, he or she is committing fraud. Those citizens of other countries that engage in these activities will at some point normally ask for money. It may arise through usual conversation where the person explains that he or she does not have the money to pay for food, gas or a member of family is sick or hurt. When there is an emotional connection with the target, he or she will often give the perpetrator the money or property to help out.
When the person engaging in catfishing does commit criminal fraud, he or she may face legal justice if the victim is able to identify who he or she is and contact the authorities in taking the matter to the courts. This often requires the help of a service to investigate the matter and find the individual. If the perpetrator is not in the country, seeking justice becomes more difficult. The matter may require the help of an international lawyer. The problem begins when the perpetrator steals an identity or uses the likeness of another individual when chatting or video conferencing the person.
The victim may need to contact the authorities and engage in gathering evidence against the catfish. This is possible with recording software, conversing with the individual and acquiring additional details that the law enforcement officers or prosecutor need to pursue a case against the person for criminal fraud. The more evidence gathered, the greater the chance the victim has in seeking justice for the damage caused. Working with the police and a prosecutor, the affected individual may discover who the person is and how to help the professionals charge him or her with criminal fraud. The loss of money or property may require details to hold the perpetrator responsible.
Have you ever been catfished? How did you deal with it? Share your views and experiences in the comments below!