Today, it only takes a few minutes for a bad actor to create an email address or a social media account that appears to be associated with another person. Once created, these fake accounts can be used to impersonate the victim, whether to defraud friends and family of the victim, to embarrass the victim with false or private details, or just to create mayhem.
A patchwork of federal laws, state laws, and common laws prohibits unauthorized online impersonation. As an example, California Penal Code section 528.5 makes it unlawful to knowingly impersonate another person on a website or other electronic means for the purpose of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person. A person who violates this California law can be punished for up to a year in jail. However, California is on the forefront of online impersonation laws and not every state has adopted similar statutes. Experienced counsel can help you find the right law for the right circumstance.
Even when a state does not have a law that specifically prohibits online impersonation, other laws may be used to obtain relief. As an example, most states have laws that prohibit others from using your name or picture for their commercial advantage. While these laws most commonly apply in the context of celebrities, they have been extended to general online impersonation. Similarly, all states prohibit a person from making intentional misrepresentations, which can also apply in the context of online impersonation.
Kronenberger Rosenfeld has considerable experience in representing victims of online impersonation. In these lawsuits, the firm has attained both the immediate termination of the impostor accounts and compensatory damages for the victim.
If you have been the victim of online impersonation, call us at (415) 955-1155, ext. 120. Or submit your matter through our online submission form.