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Criminal charges

false impersonation

Sometimes it is a crime to pretend or claim to be someone you are not. If a person misrepresents their identity by falsely impersonating another person to cause harm to someone or to improperly gain a benefit, they may be charged with the criminal offense of false impersonation or false personation under state or federal law.

False impersonation laws vary from state to state, but generally make it a crime to (1) post bail or bond for a party using someone else’s name; (2) verify, publish, acknowledge, or prove a document in the name of another person to pass it off as true (pretend to be someone else to cash or deposit a check made payable to the other person or to open a bank account in the name of the other person); or (3) falsely represent your identity in a situation or manner that might cause another person to have civil liability (be sued in a lawsuit) or criminal liability (be charged with a crime)—such as giving the police another person’s name or identification following an automobile accident, when stopped for speeding, or when being questioned about a disorderly conduct charge following a fight in a public place.

And in some states it is a crime to pretend to be someone else online or in an electronic communication (such as a text message or e-mail) without that person’s permission, if you meant to cause harm. This online impersonation is sometimes referred to as catfishing.

Similarly, it is a crime in some states to use the name or persona of another person to create a page on a commercial social networking site (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) or other website with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person.

And it is a crime under federal law to falsely present yourself as a citizen of the United States, or as an officer, agent, or employee acting under the authority of the United States to obtain anything of value or to arrest or detain persons or search persons or property. And among other false impersonations that are crimes under federal law, it is a crime to represent or pretend to be a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross for the purpose of soliciting, collecting, or receiving money or material. See 18 U.S.C. §911 to 18 U.S.C. §917.

In Texas, false impersonation is taken seriously and can result in criminal charges. Texas law criminalizes the act of impersonating another person with the intent to obtain a benefit or to harm or defraud another. This includes using someone else's identity to post bail, verify documents, or assume another's persona in a way that could lead to civil or criminal liability. For example, providing false identification to police or creating a bank account in another person's name would fall under this offense. Online impersonation, also known as 'catfishing,' is specifically addressed in Texas Penal Code Section 33.07. It is illegal to use someone else's persona without their permission on social media or any other website with the intent to cause harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten. At the federal level, it is a crime to falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen, a federal officer, agent, or employee, or to impersonate a member or agent of the American National Red Cross, as outlined in 18 U.S.C. §§ 911-917. These laws are designed to protect individuals and entities from the damages that can result from such fraudulent activities.

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