Most everyone who’s ever used a dating app has misrepresented themselves to some degree. They might use a particularly strong filter to take their photos or shave a few years off their age, for example.
Some people go much further, and with the intent of doing something illegal. So when can misrepresenting yourself online get you charged with a crime? It often involves pretending to be a person – real or fictional – that you aren’t.
Claiming to be another person
Under New York law, impersonating someone else “by communication by internet website or electronic means with intent to obtain a benefit or injure or defraud another”, or “pretend[ing] to be a public servant in order to induce another to submit to such authority or act in reliance on such pretense” is a Class A misdemeanor.
The act of impersonating someone else can be criminal whether you’re pretending to be a particular person who does exist or you’ve made up a fictional identity. The latter is commonly known as “phishing” or “catfishing.”
If someone is doing that to develop an online relationship, that alone isn’t likely going to be illegal. (You could find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit, though.) However, as often happens with “romance scams,” people pretend to be someone else to get their target to send them money or (usually unwittingly) commit some type of crime, like money laundering.
Claiming to have qualifications you don’t have
Another scenario where people find themselves charged with a crime is where they represent themselves as having qualifications they don’t have. Some people represent themselves as doctors and get people to pay them money for services they aren’t qualified or trained to provide. They might pretend to be some kind of professional like a modeling or talent agent to get money from people they claim they can get jobs, when in fact they can’t.
Often these crimes are categorized as some type of fraud or larceny – both of which can have serious legal consequences. A person might just think they’re having fun, getting some easy money, or maybe trying to get back at someone. However, when money changes hands or another criminal activity takes place, authorities will take it seriously. If you or a loved one is facing charges, it’s important to have experienced legal guidance from the beginning.