Is Catfishing illegal? [BEFORE You Try]

 People pretending to be you or someone else are scammers with nefarious ends in mind out there to deceive you. Identity theft or posing to be someone you’re not is something we refer to as catfishing. But what are the legal repercussions for such a crime? 

With the advancement of the internet, communication has become efficient as we enjoy interactions with friends & loved ones no matter where they are in the world. But as with all great things, there are always some downsides.

It has become common to create a false identity on the internet to get attention from others or to scam them. This activity has become common on different social media channels including Facebook and Snapchat. It is called catfishing in which a person hides his/her real identity and pretends to be someone else.

In this article, we have the aim to tell you “Is catfishing illegal”. We will explore the topic properly in the following sections and tell you each and everything in a proper way. By the end, you can estimate whether you can take this activity or not.

Is Catfishing illegal?

Catfishing is not illegal in itself unless you have adopted this act for the sake of some illegal purposes like scamming someone for money or favors. In simple words, you don’t need to worry about legal actions against you even if you are using someone’s names or pictures on the internet.

You can upload anyone’s pictures on your social media accounts and & pretend to be someone else. But it can be harmful to you if you’ve engaged in illegal or unethical activities on the internet using a false identity.

It has been seen that people behind catfishing use some techniques to convince the opponent and give them money. No doubt, there are no laws on catfishing in any of the countries unless someone has reported a crime.

In the following section, we will also tell you when catfishing will be considered illegal or a crime. You only need to read this guide till the end and explore all the sections properly.

When catfishing will be considered a crime?

is catfishing a crime

As we have mentioned above catfishing is neither a crime nor an illegal activity. But there are some exceptions when it is considered a crime and authorities can take severe actions against you. So, we have enlisted those conditions here to make it clear in your mind.

Someone can be charged for a crime if he/she is:

  • Asking someone for financial help pretending to be someone else or using a fake profile
  • Doing any fraudulent activity like scamming through fake profiles
  • Blackmailing someone on the internet
  • Using someone’s personal or private pictures that aren’t public
  • Damaging someone’s fame using their fake identity
  • Infringing someone’s property or honor
  • Using someone’s copyright images or trademarks for personal promotion

If someone is following any of the above mentioned activities, he/she will be doing a crime. In such a case, the police can take action against you even without any report against you. So, you should be careful as you have read when it will be considered illegal to catfish on the internet.

Can you go to jail for catfishing?

Yes, if you have been found guilty of any illegal activity using someone’s fake identity, you can go behind the bars. The time of punishment can be different in different regions or countries around the globe. For instance, if you are living in Texas, you may get low-level punishments as compared to a person living in Georgia.

So, it depends on where you live and what are the laws that the region has for catfishing. But if you are using a fake identity just for entertainment, you will not need to worry about jail or anything like this.

Is catfishing illegal in the US?

catfishing laws

Catfishing is not considered illegal in the US till now because it is common to have fake profiles on social media. But it would be considered a crime or illegal if someone is using a fake identity for any unethical activity. The US has strict policies against damage to someone’s name, property & terrorist activities.

So, if someone is using a fake identity and is found involved in any of such cases, he would be sent behind the bars at any cost. Then, the authorities and investigation will decide whether the person who is catfishing should be released or not. Normally, you can say that catfishing is not illegal or a crime in the US if the intent isn’t criminal.

Is catfishing for money illegal?

Yes, catfishing for money is illegal in almost every part of the world. It doesn’t mean that using some celebrity’s pictures to promote your products or webpage is illegal unless you don’t claim it to be their official page. Though that might fall under the copyright infringement act which is a different matter altogether.

However, if you’re asking someone to assist you financially and send you money by pretending to be someone else, you will be doing an unethical as well as an illegal activity that is punishable by law.

Is pretending to be someone else illegal?

Yes, it’s called identity theft. You might also get charged for defamation if you’ve posted something that comprises their honor or public image.

Is catfishing considered harassment?

is catfishing harrasment

This activity can either be considered an act of harassment or not as per the actions that you’ve been doing being that person. But nonetheless, it is against the law.

Can you sue someone for catfishing?

Yes, if someone is using your pictures or any other details and pretending to be you, take legal action against them. The conditions in which you can do this are if the person is defaming you, asking others for money, sharing your private pictures, indulging in illegal activities with your name, or blackmailing someone emotionally or intentionally.

In all such cases, you can contact the authorities and take action against that culprit. That person is harming your integrity.

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What is the punishment for catfishing in California?

catfishing punishment

As per the Penal Code 529 PC “False Impersonation”, the accused can face up to one year in prison along with some hefty fines in California.

The duration of the punishment after being found guilty of catfishing depends on the region in which you are living. But if you have been found guilty of any illegal activity, you will be punished as per the laws without discrimination whether you are living in Massachusetts or Pennsylvania.

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In the above blog, we have clearly answered “Is catfishing illegal?” We also have mentioned the conditions in which catfishing is considered a crime. Along with this, we have mentioned whether can you go to jail for catfishing or not.

In short, you can read our blog to get an idea about the topic comprehensively. It will help you in keeping yourself safe from unethical activities and any unexpected conditions.

E.A. Gjelten