Ask a Cop?: What should I do? Online Safety

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Question:

I’m 19 years old, I was in a Facebook group discussion talking about a YouTuber, where I made videos using a fake Scottish accent. Someone in the group started telling everyone “this person isn’t who she says she is” I deleted all of my posts on the forum, and thought it was over. When I revived a message from my aunt, saying someone stole my profile picture, and name, made an Instagram account, and started messaging her about my “fake accent”. I also must add I am a comedic actress, so accents have always been something I have done. This person went on to send my aunt photos of my previous house in Virginia. I have only lived in Arizona for less than a month now. Two days later this individual left a comment on a poshmark account from over three years ago asking “Does the retarded Scottish accent come with the dress?” I have since deleted all social media. But I am concerned for my safety, as this person knew my old address. What do I do? What can be done? Is this harassment? Cyber stalking? How did they find my aunt?

Answer:

Just about anything can be found out about someone online without much effort; personal info, relatives, addresses, phone numbers, pictures of homes, etc. Even more if you pay a small fee; It wouldn’t be too hard for someone to find out about you if they have your name. Unless there’s more to this story, there’s nothing illegal with using a fake accent but it apparently pissed off someone with nothing better to do than engage in online harassment. Report the fake profile and harassment to instagram and ask them to delete the account because it is not you. Might take some effort though because some social media companies drag their feet and are not real cooperative in these matters. It is against the law to impersonate an actual person, here in CA it is Penal Code section 529,  the California statute that defines the crime of “false impersonation.” The offense is also referred to as “false personation.” The crime is committed when someone uses another person’s name to cause a harm or gain an unjust advantage.

The statute applies to the situation when a defendant:

Pretends to be someone else, and either:

Commits an act that exposes the person to either civil or criminal liability, or does something that causes the other person to have to pay money, or gains some benefit from the impersonation.

Examples:

Giving an officer another’s name and that other person gets arrested for a crime.

Opening a credit card in someone else’s name and buying clothes on it.

Using another person’s name to get into a country club and then playing golf for free.

But as long as no laws are broken and it didn’t cause you any harm or liability, there’s not much the police could do. If they open accounts in your name such as credit cards, phone bills, etc that could cause you liability, then yes, it’s illegal. Most police departments will not write a report if no laws are broken, but some departments might write an info report to document your claims which could protect you in the future if the harassment escalates.

Or try a different accent next time…. 🙂    Good luck

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