In recent years, the term catfishing has been a subject of much concern when it comes to online interactions. This refers to a person impersonating another by using their pictures, which are usually obtained from social media profiles. The reasons behind catfishing can range from romantic pursuits to an intent to obtain money or other goods from a person using nefarious means. The legality of catfishing is up for debate and usually depends on the reasons behind the endeavor.
There are established laws in New York that prohibit a person from impersonating another. According to the New York State Unified Court System, Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree involves knowingly taking on the persona of another in an effort to obtain some sort of benefit or with the intent to injure another party. These elements must be present for a person to be convicted of criminal wrongdoing. Criminal impersonation can also involve other elements as well.
As explained by HG.org, catfishing on its own is not necessarily illegal. For instance, a person who impersonates another to pursue a romantic interest may not be committing a crime, unless the other party can show harm caused by the impersonation. However, many people who become involved in catfishing do so to obtain money or favors from another party, which is where illegality come into play.
For instance, the catfisher may request banking information. He or she may also request money or gifts from a person by claiming to be someone else. In this case, the catfisher will claim to need money for a serious issue, such as to cover medical costs or to buy food. These requests may become more frequent as the false relationship develops between the impersonator and his or her victim. Determining the legality of a catfishing scheme requires the assistance of an attorney with a good understanding of fraud and associated laws.