When an online impersonator offers sexual services - Impersonation and sexually related civil and criminal offences
Imagine if someone approached you whilst you were mowing the front lawn, said your name as though they knew you well and moved forward to embrace you and you had never seen them before in your life?
A traumatised client said that the stranger that approached her, completely freaked her out and said that he was there to have sex with her, as promised. He was waving a piece of paper in his hand and she grabbed it, whilst screaming for help. Her name and address were on there and a social media account name. She screamed again. The man ran. The police were called, he was found and taken in for questioning and was later released because he was in fact quite innocent.
Online impersonator offers sexual services on social media
The stranger, according to the social media account that was in her name with her picture on and biography, including whereabouts she lived, had been exchanging messages, with who he thought was her, in a sexual way for weeks and they had 'both' decided to actually meet and have sex on that day.
Upon further investigation, our client had been impersonated online and in her biography, alongside her image, were lewd invitations of a sexual nature and private information about where she lived and alleged sexual orientation and other background information. It transpired that the online impersonator offers sexual services and had been sex emailing and sending images (that had been manipulated - her face on naked body in various poses) over several months to multiple people.
Will social media close the impersonation account down?
Initial thoughts, alongside the rage and stress that she was feeling about not only having an online impersonator but one that offers sexual services, was to contact the social media platform to close the account down as soon as possible but she didn't realise how convoluting, frustrating and fruitless this exercise would be.
The social media platform will ask you to identify yourself and ask to see proof of your identity. The emails will go back and forth, over days and even weeks, and all the while your anxiety levels will be hitting the ceiling. What happened to another one of our clients was that the social media platform was emailing the person that had set up the impersonation online account as well as our client. Maybe because they were not trained in harassment and impersonation issues or maybe because there were several people working on the shutdown over different shifts but no matter the reason, the online impersonator perpetrator was being alerted to our client trying to close it down and decided to up the online harassment and so created another impersonation account.
How long might social media take to close impersonation accounts?
One other important thing to note is that while it takes 3 to 4 weeks for the potential social media impersonator account close down, which unfortunately, doesn't always happen, the damage has spread further on the internet and your mental health is affected even more.
Revealing the online impersonator's identity
Of course, our client was intensely stressed about this discovery and came to us for our support with the online impersonation and we had to work quickly in removing the account and images, as fast as possible, whilst retaining all evidence, as our client was intent on us tracing the perpetrator and bringing them to justice. She had an idea that it was someone that she used to work with; someone that she had had a fallout with. A disclosure order from us to the social media platform revealed that indeed, it was an ex-colleague who had set up the account and impersonated her, offering sex to strangers.
What crimes and civil wrongdoings is the impersonator committing?
The ex-colleague had committed crimes of harassment, breach of privacy, misuse of private information, revenge porn, breach of copyright and defamation.
It is important to note that you do not have to understand the internet to commit online harassment and breach of privacy issues, say, but you do have to appoint someone that does understand, to get sex videos or images for instance, off the internet properly and deal with the perpetrator of crimes like harassment and revenge porn.
What can the police do when an online impersonator offers sexual services?
Now, impersonation online is not a crime by itself and if you have reported it to the police and they have told you that it is a civil matter, do not accept this because if that online impersonation includes anything that is causing you anxiety and it is repeated, it is the crime of harassment. When someone is impersonating you online it is usually with a view to scam and obtain money and offer services or goods and it goes under fraud. In this instance, it was to ruin our client's reputation and the police may tell you that it is a civil matter but often, online impersonation accompanies many other activities like it did for our client, like harassment and that is a criminal offence and civil wrongdoing.
What will Cohen Davis do?
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 you can do about it, since the 'impersonator offers sexual services' case could be more far-reaching than just on the social media account. There are breach of privacy and misuse of private information issues possibly, like in this instance, where the impersonator online had disclosed private information about our client and posted true and false personal details about her publicly. When a perpetrator of online impersonation sets out to ruin your reputation by posting slanderous statements about you, we can also make a claim for defamation and if they use your image, even if it is manipulated, we can also pursue the crime of revenge porn and possibly breach of copyright, if they have copied and posted your trademarked material.
If you have discovered that you have been impersonated on social media and they are advertising sexual services, we have no doubt that you are feeling violated, anxious, scared and afraid of further repercussions but know that we are a team of lawyers that deal with such intricate internet cases daily and we can support you however much we can. Dealing with the impersonation online may not take as long as is led to believe.
We advise you to not to suffer in silence and hope that online impersonation goes away.
What if I take it down the legal path?
With each case, we can secure substantial damages for you, have your legal costs paid, obtain apologies and of course, remove what the impersonators have posted online about you. Damages and legal fees paid won't ever take away what happened to our dear client that went through the experience of an 'online impersonator offers sexual services' but she found some comfort in having some money to cover the days that she lost from not being able to work, due to the severe stress that she endured and to cover the therapy that she needed. The legally-binding long term documents in place have also given her great relief, that it won't happen again.
It is easier said than done but Cohen Davis advise you to try to stay calm, relaxed and start moving on with your life by calling us, as your next step, without delay: 0800-612-7211.