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Online Impersonations

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The article below discusses how individuals have used online impersonation to torment others. Online impersonation is generally considered a hybrid crime containing elements of both identity theft and harassment.  Unlike traditional identity theft, online impersonation lacks an economic component.  Instead, the defendant impersonates the victim for a non-economic reason such as to harass. It should also be noted that not all online impersonators have the intent to harass see for example the catfish hoax involving Manti Te’o.   

Online impersonations arise in a variety of different settings but generally take one of two forms.  The first involves the criminal defendant pretending to be the victim in order to interact with the rest of the world on social media.  Some impersonations are fairly benign and could be considered parodies.

Other impersonations are less benign.  For example, a Philadelphia woman created a fake Facebook page in the name of her ex-boyfriend, a narcotics police officer.  While impersonating him on Facebook she wrote, “I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun” and “I’m an undercover narcotics detective that gets high every day.”   The fictitious Facebook page was discovered and the woman was prosecuted and sentenced to a diversion program.

Washington Post: Stalkers Use Online Sex Ads as Weapons

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