Identity Theft and Funny Impersonation: A Sharp, Fine Line

faceless manNot all impersonations are created equal. Though it’s against the rules and regulations of Facebook, many people have temporarily taken over a friend’s account and created posts for entertainment purposes. Others have created accounts with similar names, impersonating friends and family to be humorous. It’s not always identity theft or crime, but it’s important to know where the line is drawn.

A Prank Gone Too Far?

There are friendly pranks and then there are nasty ones. Your roommate isn’t likely to call police because you superimposed a photo of him into a crowd of cheering Justin Bieber fans. However, a story recently published by the Statesman describes a criminal act, but a prank. A man recently impersonated a woman, posting her personal information on the web and leading various other men to seek her out for sexual favors. Three separate men showed up at her home, and several more contacted her on the web.

This is an instance where impersonation clearly put the target in danger. The law is based on precedent as well as written statutes, and cases like these ultimately come down to the discretion of a prosecutor and judge.

The aforementioned case is neither a harmless prank, nor a case of identity theft. Simply adopting someone else’s name is impersonation, while attempts to access another’s personal finances is identity theft. In short, an attempt to use a credit card found on the street qualifies as identity theft.

The Fine Crime Line

The line between crime and non-crime is getting blurrier. Arizona has sought to outlaw Facebook impersonation altogether, according to First Coast News. This could land you in prison just for taking over a friend’s account, posting something funny in their name. The laws vary between states, so be proactive especially if you travel frequently.

Protection with software and services like those provided by LifeLock is more important than ever. There were more than 10 million victims of identity theft in 2012 alone, according to CBS News. Virus and malware software is important, but taking that extra step will only maximize your potential safety.

Identity thieves will go as far as rummaging through dumpsters to steal your identity. Take preventative measures like shredding documents that contain vital information before throwing them away. If you decide to cancel a credit card, cut it several times before tossing it, preferably between each of the numbers.

The line between impersonation and fraud can be incredibly fine, so tread it carefully. Know the law where you live and take advantage of programs that provide extra protection.

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