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Online impersonation, also known as e-personation, occurs when people use the Internet to pretend to be someone else. E-personation takes places often combining the victim's name with photos, the names of friends and family members, or other personal information either by creating a web profile, a fake Facebook profile, or by communicating via email.

Internet impersonation has been a growing problem in recent years and some States have passed laws against it. The exponential growth of social media, like Twitter or Facebook has increased the number of cases. There are currently no federal E-personation laws, and only nine States have online impersonation laws on the books. Texas, Mississippi, Hawaii, New York and California have enacted statutes containing language explicitly referring to Internet impersonation. However, most States, including New Jersey, have statutes that cover Internet impersonation transactions.

These laws make impersonating somebody online a misdemeanor or third-degree felony punishable by fines and up to a year in jail depending on the severity of the crime.

In 2011 the HB 1652 was signed into law in order to enable victims of vicious online impersonators to sue their harassers. Washington was the second State to take aim at e-personation.

In 2010, California lawmakers voted unanimously to make e-personation a crime punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. Section 528.5 provides that "any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person" is guilty of a misdemeanor. Section 529 allows for a broader range of improper activity to trigger culpability and comes with a $10,000 fine, a year imprisonment, or both.

Moreover, any victim of the e-personation can bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, or punitive damages. In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a new criminal offense for online harassment through impersonation under Texas Penal Code § 33.07. Section § 33.07 of the Texas Penal Code identifies the crime of impersonating someone online as happening when someone creates a web page or posts or send messages while using the ID of another. These crimes are not considered impersonation, and are often classified as a type of "cyberstalking" in other States. New York Penal Law § 190.25(4) states that a person is guilty of criminal impersonation when he/she impersonates another by communication by Internet or electronic means with the intent to obtain a benefit, injure, or defraud another person.

If you have been victim of e-personation, speak to an internet lawyer to have the false account removed and file a lawsuit against its creator.

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