Is catfishing a crime? While catfishing as a crime is a relatively new Internet phenomenon, originating through social media. This is the word for when someone uses a fictitious photo and identity when communicating with someone online. Is this a felony, and if so, how serious is it?
What Exactly Is Catfishing?
“Catfishing” is a popular word for someone who lies online about their appearance most commonly on online dating sites. Following the 2010 documentary “Catfish,” the word gained prominence. The documentary followed Nev Schulman, a New York City photographer who drove across the nation to meet “Megan,” a lady he’d been communicating with online.
The 19-year-old Schulman thinks he was in love with turned out not to exist. He had been speaking with Angela, a 39-year-old married woman. Because of the movie’s success, Schulman hosted a show on MTV where viewers tracked down and confronted potential catfishers.
Catfish frequently use genuine people’s social media accounts images to create their false profiles. The appearance of a catfish as someone of a different gender, race, or nationality is not unusual. Some people develop these online personas because they sincerely want to connect with someone but are uncomfortable doing so. Some control several fictitious identities for their amusement or to spy on a former lover.
Is catfishing a crime?
There are fake profiles on numerous dating or friend-making websites and applications, including Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Instagram, and Facebook. These catfish are not usually simple to catch out. Around a quarter of dating website users in the UK were claimed to have fallen victim to scams and deception by bogus profiles in 2020. It’s possible that fake social media profiles are not unlawful in and of themselves. Some acts, such as catfishing or using false online identities, could, however, transform otherwise legal activity into illegal activity.
When someone creates a false online identity, they may have ulterior motives, such as extorting money from unsuspecting online victims. According to a 2019 report, this has in the past caused the loss of more than eight million pounds using dating website platforms in the UK. A bogus profile on a screen can create financial harm, stress, and issues in the future, in addition to the emotional harm that might result from being a victim of catfishing. People should take these factors into account.
Catfishing as a crime is a common manifestation of romance fraud. If the fraudster has finances from the fraud, this type of catfishing might be against the law. If the catfishing or romance fraud resulted in sexual intercourse, any agreement given by the victim to the contract could be null and void, and the scammer could be punished with a variety of non-consensual gender-criminal charges.
Is catfishing a crime: Catfishing crime and swindling
Catfishers typically commit fraud when they impersonate another person and engage in illicit activities to get something of value. This could include money, property, further information obtained from another individual to perpetrate additional fraud, or a different item. Typically, the goal is to harm the target by obtaining benefits from them in the form of money, bank account information, or other assets. If the person is only impersonating another person for contact and does not attempt to steal an award or item from the target, he or she may not be charged with a crime.
Is catfishing a crime: Obtaining Money or property
When a catfishing perpetrator attempts to obtain money or goods from another person, he or she is committing fraud. Citizens of foreign nations who engage in these activities will almost always ask for money at some point. It could start with a normal conversation in which the person explains that he or she does not have money to take care of a sick family member. The target will frequently offer the culprit money or property to help when there is an emotional connection between them.
Is catfishing a crime: How Catfishing Became Illegal
As of present, it is not unlawful to impersonate someone or create a false character online. Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize that catfishing someone is unlawful. As a relationship progresses, it is common for it to cross the line into criminal fraud as follows:
- Using another person’s image to infringe on intellectual property.
- Representation of the person they are mimicking.
- Using your persona to indulge in or engage in illicit sexual activity with a minor.
- Using your deception to obtain money or products from someone else.
All of the above are illegal, and you may face criminal charges. It is not illegal to pretend to be someone else in a chat room if you are only chatting. But, in today’s world, using someone else’s photo to create your bogus character is an unlawful violation of their intellectual property. In this sense, many catfish cases are unintentionally breaking the law.
But generally speaking, stealing intellectual property isn’t the most serious crime anyone can commit. The owner of the photo has the right to file a lawsuit. However, if they discover it on someone else’s profile, this is not very common. Criminal prosecutions against people who catfished their way to numerous presents are far more frequent and considerably harsher.
In addition to not wanting to meet up in person, one of the telltale signs of a catfish is when they beg for money or other things. Some catfish may establish a rapport with a victim before casually claiming they must pay X dollars to fix their automobile or risk losing their job.
charges brought after catfishing
In the case of Kirat Assi, a catfish was charged for the first time in the UK. Since the police declined to conduct a thorough criminal investigation that should have resulted in a criminal prosecution, a civil lawsuit was filed. The High Court heard the Kirat Assi case, and there, the judge could only impose a damage award against the catfish. A civil lawsuit must be filed in private and at the victim’s expense.
Some FAQS about catfishing a crime.
The following are some questions concerning whether is catfishing a crime:
Can you bring a lawsuit against someone who uses your likeness on dating websites or social media?
Anyone who impersonates you on social media or a dating service is subject to legal action. You can file a civil lawsuit against someone who is using your name online without your permission. You should think about your long-term options if the effect on your life becomes too great to simply endure or ignore, especially if you fear that it might encourage the impersonator to act even more aggressively.
How can I tell if someone is trying to catfish me?
Always use caution when interacting online. Scammers are everywhere even on dating sites. But, there are a few warning signs to look out for that are exclusive to catfishing:
- They decline to meet with you in person; or they agree to meet with you in person but then cancel last minute;
- Don’t make phone or video calls;
- they solely text;
- They simply provide pictures from social media pages; and
- Demand payment.
Of course, a lot of people find love online. Yet it’s wise to err on the side of caution and refrain from giving cash or gift cards to a stranger. Especially if you provided the individual money, you may have choices if you were the victim of catfishing. Law enforcement can be notified of any illegal activity, and you can also inquire with a lawyer about your other options.
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