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Online Impersonation

Kronenberger Rosenfeld represents a range of clients who have been impersonated on websites and in emails.

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.

Our impersonation attorneys have considerable experience in representing victims of online impersonation. In these lawsuits, our impersonation attorneys have 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.

  • Our impersonation attorneys represented the victim in an impersonation lawsuit where the new girlfriend of the victim’s former partner created a fake Facebook profile in the victim’s name, posted private photographs of the victim, and invited the victim’s friends, family and work colleagues to join the profile. The firm prevailed at a jury trial on behalf of the victim and obtained a $250,000 jury verdict.
  • Represented the victim of domain name theft perpetrated by impersonating the victim, regarding a valuable two-letter domain name.
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  • Represented a large non-profit organization in which a board member was impersonated in online discussion groups. The impostor had the board member making extreme and objectionable statements. The firm brought a “John Doe” lawsuit, discovered the perpetrator of the impersonation, and obtained a favorable settlement for the client.
  • Represented an international education organization in a fraud matter involving the defendant’s impersonation of an executive of the client to embezzle money.
  • Advised multiple executives of different businesses on how to address impersonation in social media. For many of these clients, the firm was able to stop the impersonation without the need to turn to litigation.
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