When Catfishing Becomes Fraud

With more people using the internet daily, it was only a matter of time before some online users would start to deceive others who could not physically see or personally interact with them. Online impersonation for fun or gain, has been coined – catfishing. Popularized by the MTV show, “Catfish,” catfishing is now a term widely used to describe online interactions where one person deceives another through chat, email, or video software by using the likeness of another person.  

Catfishing may include someone who has a fake online persona of being more wealthy or attractive than he or she is, or an online user who is not the real owner of a profile. The act of catfishing someone borders on illegality.  

While catfishing is considered fraud, when can it become criminal? Here our Tampa Bay defense attorneys take a closer look at catfishing and the criminal implications that could result…  

When Catfishing Can Become Criminal 

Currently, the act of impersonating someone or creating a false persona online is not illegal. For example, saying you’re someone else in an online chat room or dating site isn’t a crime. However, as a relationship advances, catfishing may turn into criminal fraud allegations or another offense through the following acts: 

  • Infringing on intellectual property by using another person’s image, i.e., using someone else’s photo to craft a fake persona 
  • Defamation of the person he or she is impersonating 
  • Using a fake persona to engage or illicit sexual acts with a minor 
  • Using a fake persona to receive money or goods from another person  

To be clear these activities are illegal and could result in criminal charges being brought against you. The possibly legal implications range in severity, especially when involving monetary crimes such as wire fraud.  

Even the most innocent forms of catfishing can result in a criminal case being brought forth against you. If you have been charged with fraud due to catfishing, contact Stechschulte Nell Law today at (813) 280-1244. 

Defending Criminal Fraud Due to Catfishing  

In most catfishing cases, there’s no need to worry about criminal charges. Often catfishing cases are simply infringing on intellectual property. It’s not like an identity fraud case; should the owner of the picture find their photo on your online profile they could ask you to remove it, or in rare cases, pursue a case against you.  

Far more often, criminal allegations from catfishing are for more severe crimes. For example, if someone catfished their way into receiving expensive gifts or large sums of money. In criminal cases, this is one key aspect of a catfish.  

After building a relationship, this can tread into criminal ramifications by “casually” saying you need money to see a sick family member, or to fix a car or else get fired from work. Even when someone offers up goods or money without you asking first it may still be considered fraud if you are pretending to be someone else online. Although their choice, this is still very much fraud and can spiral into several possible criminal charges.  

Should you or a loved one be arrested for fraud, lack of intent is a possible defense we can use in criminal fraud cases. This defense strategy helps criminal defense attorneys mitigate your risk should the case be brought to trial. 

Avoiding Legal Issues with a Catfish Persona 

If you have a catfish persona, you should always be concerned about legal implications. Most often, a person who engages in catfishing never realizes what he or she is doing is illegal. However, if you’re not careful, catfishing could turn into a legal battle you don’t want to get into.  

Avoid these acts online, and you should be protected:  

  • Using pictures of others 
  • Asking to receive money or goods 
  • Engaging with minors 
  • Impersonating real people   

Defend Your Criminal Fraud Case 

If you or a loved one has been charged with fraud or an internet-related crime due to catfishing, the criminal defense attorneys at Stechschulte Nell can help. Our defense team has the experience needed to properly defend criminal fraud cases. We will represent your case and mitigate your risk of facing punishments for a fraud charge that you likely didn’t realize was illegal.  

We’d be happy to listen to your side to see how we can best defend your unique case. Contact our Tampa criminal defense law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak with an attorney or request a FREE case review with a Florida-board certified lawyer.  

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