Question: Can I sue someone for impersonating someone on the Internet?
I received this question via email from a reader:
Dear Ask a Cyber Lawyer:
My boyfriend is stationed over seas in the Air Force, and we usually use the internet to communicate. It turns out that his ex-wife has been using an old account of his, and pretending to be him. I just found out that while I thought I have been chatting with him, I was really chatting with his ex. This has caused me a lot of emotional anguish. Is there any way I can sue her?
My response is this. With out knowing anything else about the case, it is possible that there could be several causes of action that could be brought against her by both you and your boyfriend.
First, in some jurisdictions it is actually a crime to impersonate someone on the internet. So it might be worth while to involve the police.
Second, there are civil causes of actions you can bring up. One is the tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, or IIED. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress occurs when the Defendant intentionally or recklessly commits extreme and outrageous conduct which causes the plaintiff to suffer emotional distress (in some jurisdictions this action must be done in public). If you were induced by this person to commit some sort of act, such as send money, there are fraud actions which may be available as well.
Your boyfriend may also have causes of action available. First, anything she said while impersonating him is likely actionable as defamation. Likewise he may also have an invasion of privacy claim for portraying him in a false light.
My advice is call my firm, or an attorney in your area and make an appointment to discuss the specifics in this matter.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains no actual legal advice. It is difficult to dispense comprehensive legal advice on the internet. If you find the information on this site interesting and insightful, great. But before you rely on any of this advice, please consult a legal professional with the specific details of your case or controversy.
Posted on October 17, 2012, in Ask a Cyber Lawyer, cyber stalking, cybercrime, defamation, false identity, false light, internet privacy, Questions from Readers and tagged Ask a Cyber Lawyer, cyber crime, cyber stalking, cybercrime, defamation, false light, internet impersonation, internet privacy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.