We’ve all likely seen the MTV show Catfish in which the hosts hunt down a potential fake profile to expose someone pretending to be another online. While most don’t get to meet a catfish in person, the concept is all too familiar.

While catfishing may begin with a seemingly harmless act, using someone else’s picture to talk with people online, it can quickly be come something more.

Is catfishing illegal?

Catfishing in itself is not illegal. The act of using another’s picture and talking to people online is not against the law, but it is often a step towards illegal activities.

When does catfishing become a crime?

Florida is one of the top states for internet crimes, including those that come from catfishing. While catfishing is not a crime, it can be a steppingstone to other illegal online acts. Here are a few ways that catfishing can become a crime:

  • Using copyright and trademarks illegally, for example, using the copyrighted art of another to impersonate them online
  • Identity theft that leads to using another’s personal or financial data
  • Fraud, including asking others to send money or goods
  • Solicitation of minors or involving minors in a crime
  • Unauthorized access to a system or network
  • Recording or taking pictures of people without consent
  • Damaging systems or computers or introducing computer viruses

As the online world becomes such a huge part of our everyday world, it’s important to understand what are and are not legal activities. The internet may feel like the wild west, but what happens online can have very real ramifications. If you are accused of a crime in relation to catfishing, talk to an attorney to get help in understanding your best defenses.