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Catfishing is a new product of the Internet, specifically from social media. This is the term for when someone uses a fake picture and identity when talking to someone online. Is this a crime, and if so, under what circumstances?

When Catfishing is a Criminal Offense

In general, there’s nothing illegal about using a fake picture or name to represent yourself online. However, there are some instances where this could become a crime depending on the catfish’s intent.

  • Romance scams: romance scams occur when an individual starts a romantic relationship with someone online with the purpose of getting money from them. Typically, the catfish represents themselves with a photo of an attractive person. Then, after receiving money, the catfish may disappear.
  • Aggravated identity theft: this is when someone uses someone else’s identity to commit a crime. This serious offense may even be charged as a federal crime.
  • Intellectual property crimes: if the image(s) used to catfish someone are the property of the original creator, the catfish might face penalties for unauthorized use.
  • Involving minors: if an adult portrays a minor online to receive sexual content from a real minor, they may face serious sex crimes charges.

You may be charged under:

  • Florida Statute 784.048: criminalized cyberstalking and harassment
  • Florida Communications Fraud Act
  • Florida Computer Crimes Act

If you’re found guilty of catfishing and it leads to the discovery of another crime, you could face jail time, fines, probation, and more consequences. Florida has one of the highest rates of online crime in the nation, and law enforcement is cracking down.

If you are contacted about an online crime, use your right to remain silent and contact a defense attorney as quickly as possible.

Daytona Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have been accused of committing a criminal offense online, contact us at Hager & Schwartz, P.A.. It’s crucial that you begin working on your defense right away. Share the details of your case with our attorneys during a confidential case consultation. Click here to request an appointment or give us a call at (386) 693-1637.