Understanding Online Impersonation Crimes
Catfishing has become a significant cultural phenomenon that relies on deception to lure another person into a relationship or target them in harmful ways. Over the past decade, catfishing has become widely understood to be the practice of creating a fake online identity to target a specific victim for abuse or fraud. This typically occurs on social media platforms but can occur on any online platform, nonetheless. For instance, “catfishers” can obtain victims’ banking details, employment information, social security numbers, and other personal information by posing as someone they’re not.
While Colorado statutes don’t specifically prohibit nor define catfishing, it falls under the broader category of “online impersonation,” which is an area of law governing undesirable online behavior in the state. Over time, crimes that are directly related to online impersonation may get integrated into federal laws, although no federal statutes currently prohibit this act. According to the University of Colorado Law Review, online impersonation consists of various cyber offenses including, but not limited to:
Cyberbullying: Generally defined as “the willful and repeated use of cell phones, computers, and other communication devices to harass and threaten others.” Examples include:
- Spreading rumors about people online
- Creating an online account with fake photos and false information to spread harmful messages online
- Creating a social media page or website page to rate someone’s appearance or personality
- Verbally abusing players in videogames
- Posting personal details or humiliating photos about someone online
Cyberharassment: This offense generally does not involve a credible threat but typically pertains to threatening, humiliating, annoying, or harassing emails, messages, blogs, websites, or other forms of electronic communications that intend to torment a person. Cyberharassment includes:
- Sharing unsolicited posts and comments on social media
- Promoting self-harm such as drug abuse and eating disorders
- Prank calling
- Spreading hate speech to provoke an emotional reaction
Cyberstalking: Among the most serious cybercrimes is cyberstalking, which involves the use of electronic or online communications to stalk another person over a period of time and often refers to patterns of threatening or malicious behaviors. Examples of cyberstalking include:
- Infecting another person’s computer with malware
- Flooding a person’s email inbox with messages
- Repeatedly calling or texting a person
- Joining online groups that the targeted victim is a part of, or sending friend requests to the victim’s friends and family
- Continuously viewing a person’s social media page
Accused of Online Harassment?
Our Denver criminal defense attorneys at Gerash Steiner & Blanton, P.C. are well-aware of the fact that online harassment can be subjective, resulting in false accusations. For instance, you could easily get accused of cyberstalking for repeatedly sending friend requests to a person on social media, and, as a result, suffer criminal consequences. In many online harassment cases, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, which is why our lawyers will exhaust every possible legal option and defense strategy to help minimize the impacts of your charges.
To speak with us about your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us online or by calling (303) 732-5048!