If someone impersonates you on the internet, it is usually with the view to scam you or others, or they just want to ruin your reputation. If you have found yourself in the midst of online impersonation, you are in no doubt feeling a heightened anxiety and are not sure about what to do if someone impersonates you.
The nature of the internet means that anyone could be impersonating you anywhere whether or not you are aware of their actions. They could impersonate you on the internet at any time and from anywhere and there's nothing stopping someone, hiding behind the obscurity of the internet from taking your identity as their own, for only they know why.
The consequence of this is often serious damage to your reputation and in extreme cases, you could be blacklisted by financial institutions or even arrested by the police because of something your impersonator did. If you become the target of online impersonation don’t suffer in silence and hope that online impersonation goes away.
Online impersonation is nothing new and imposter social media accounts are a rapidly growing problem, since it is easy to set up fake accounts on social media. You are only asked to verify who you are if you report an impersonation. But even when you report to the platform that someone has set up a fake account under your name, the moderators do not always remove them but this must not deter you as you must report it, regardless.
Many individuals have had fake social media accounts which impersonate them removed and deleted but too many are still left hanging. Some fake social media accounts just disappear weeks and months later, without notice from the social media platform. Reporting online impersonation to the social media platform also shows, should you take legal advice on it, that you have done the necessary steps from a legal point of view.
On that note, document all evidence and take screenshots. If you are receiving any type of harassment or threats from the perpetrator of online impersonation, take the evidence to the police, as soon as possible.
Sometimes, imposters get through to your social media account and send friend requests to your friends. They then trick your friends in that way, telling them that you have a new social media account to begin ruining your reputation. They also use your image to convince your friends and followers that the fake social media account belongs to you.
In extreme cases, the imposter would be scamming them to donate to a fake charity or to invest in a false endorsement. As soon as you find out about the impersonation, let everyone you know that you are being impersonated online, so that they can be aware, by posting a message from your social media accounts and elsewhere, if possible: emails, texts and voice messages. It is incredibly anxiety-inducing to be impersonated online and letting everyone know protects them also, whilst being able to talk about it and not handling it alone is a good step.
Impersonation by itself is not illegal unless the impersonation is that of a police officer or a solicitor. In most cases, the online impersonation is likely to result in the impersonator committing criminal acts and civil wrongdoings. Civil wrongdoings would usually include breach of privacy, misuse of private information, defamation and harassment.
Criminal wrongdoings will often include fraud and harassment. The fraud is committed if the impersonator is able to make gains by misrepresenting themselves to be someone else. The gains could be money, work, sexual favours or an unfair advantage.
You cannot breach your own privacy with what you submit online but what you do post online, may give free information to online impersonators. Offering such private information about yourself gives impersonators an easier time when setting up a 'plausible' account. If the online impersonation perpetrator posts your private information, you will most likely have a legal claim for the misuse of private information and breach of privacy.
The information that they post may be minimal - for example, it could be your picture, your name, your residential address or details about your love life. When a perpetrator of online impersonation sets out to ruin your reputation and starts posting slanderous statements about you, you may also have a claim for defamation. If they are using your image, there would possibly be a claim for breach of copyright.
Even if you are not intending to take legal action when you are considering what to do if someone impersonates you online because this might not be practical, the fact that you can show social media platforms and search engine providers that you have a cause of action, should be enough to persuade them to close down the fake online accounts or blogs.