Texas Online Impersonation Law – Penal Code 33.07

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 What Is the Law for Online Impersonation in Texas?

Online impersonation is the act of using another individual’s persona without first obtaining their consent. This may be done in order to harm, intimidate, threaten, or defraud.

If an individual has any questions about online impersonation or identity theft issues in Texas, they should consult with a local attorney in Texas.

What Will the State Have to Prove to Convict Me of Impersonating Online?

The prosecution must show that the defendant, without consent and with intent to use the name or persona, did one or more of the following:

  • Posted and sent messages via social networking websites;
  • Created a personal or commercial profile on a social networking site;
  • Created a webpage on another Internet website.

Why Was I Charged With Impersonating Someone Online When I Only Wrote an Email?

An individual may be charged with impersonating someone online if they send:

A person can be charged with this offense when they send any of the following while using another individual’s personal information:

  • Electronic mail;
  • A text message;
  • An instant message;
  • Another type of online communication.

What Type of Personal Information Can I Get in Trouble for Using?

An individual may be charged with online impersonation if they use another individual’s:

  • Domain address;
  • Phone number;
  • Name;
  • Any other identifying information.

The perpetrator must have engaged in this conduct without the individual’s consent, causing other individuals to believe it is their online persona.

What Is the Punishment for Impersonating Someone Online in Texas?

Impersonating another individual online is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by:

  • Less than a year in county jail;
  • $4,000 fine;
  • Jail time and a fine.

Can Impersonating an Individual Online Be a Felony?

Yes, impersonating an individual online may be charged as a felony in some situations. For example, soliciting a response from emergency personnel is classified as a third-degree felony.

Individuals who are convicted of this felony may face:

  • Two to 10 years in state prison;
  • A $10,000 fine;
  • Fine and state prison.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when an individual uses another individual’s identification, name, address, or Social Security number without their permission. Identity theft can be committed both online and offline.

For example, it is against the law to impersonate a police officer, federal officer, public official, or other federal employee. In Texas, online impersonation is also illegal.

For example, suppose an individual saves their credit card information onto their computer, in a web browser, or in a pre-filled form on a website. If a hacker gained access to and used these things to make purchases, it would be considered identity theft.

The internet has provided criminals with numerous different types of opportunities to commit identity theft. Because of this, it is essential for an individual to protect their personal data both online and offline.

An identity thief can steal an individual’s identity and, as a result, they may end up with:

  • A criminal record;
  • Fraudulent tax records;
  • A poor credit score;
  • Other legal issues.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Identity Theft?

A victim can sue the perpetrator of identity theft in civil court, and the perpetrator may be charged in criminal court if they are found by law enforcement. In some cases, a victim may still be able to pursue legal action if they do not know the perpetrator or if law enforcement is unable to locate them.

Examples of parties that may be held liable for identity theft include:

  • Banks;
  • Credit card companies;
  • Credit bureaus;
  • Merchants who process credit card transactions;
  • Employers; and
  • Other businesses that may be responsible for the stolen information.

The following legal theories may be used to sue any of these parties, depending on state laws and circumstances of the case:

  • Fraud;
  • Breach of fiduciary duty;
  • Negligence;
  • Invasion of privacy;
  • Conversion;
  • Breach of contract;
  • Infliction of emotional distress; and
  • Any other legal theories that are listed under the state statute.

How Do Identity Thieves Operate?

Although identity theft can be perpetrated on anyone, there are two main categories of individuals that identity thieves typically target: children and the elderly. Children are more likely to be targeted because they are better candidates due to their lack of credit cards, driver’s licenses, tax records, or any other identifying information that leaves a trail.

A criminal may be able to establish credit lines, obtain mortgages, and obtain government IDs using the child’s information. An identity thief may be able to obtain this information by messaging a child online or by having access to their information.

For example, a parent or guardian who has the child’s information in their possession may use that information to open credit card accounts or take out loans. A thief may also pose as an authority figure, such as a school administrator so that the child will feel obligated to divulge the requested information.

In identity theft cases that involve the elderly, a thief will usually take advantage of the elderly individual’s lack of technological knowledge. Elderly individuals may not have a good understanding of how technology functions or how to properly use it.

As a result, they may publish their personal information online where anyone can see it. They may also not have adequate security on their accounts, or they may not use technology at all and opt, instead, for riskier options, such as mailing a check.

Another way an identity thief may obtain information about an elderly individual is by using theft by deception. In these situations, a thief may pose as a long-lost relative, a bank representative, medical personnel, or another important business party and request that the individual sign the paperwork.

A thief could be convicted of online identity theft, specifically against an elderly individual or a child. If that is the case, it will result in several legal penalties, regardless of the target and means used to commit the offense.

How Can I Sue Someone for Online Identity Theft?

The first step in suing a perpetrator of identity theft is to determine their identity. If a victim does not know the perpetrator’s identity, they should file a police report in their local area.

Once the perpetrator is captured by law enforcement, they will investigate the case and submit their findings to the local district attorney. A prosecutor will examine the evidence and determine whether or not to prosecute the offender.

If the criminal case is not successful, or the victim wishes to seek monetary compensation for the offense, they can file a civil lawsuit. It may be possible to sue one or more of the parties listed above if a victim does not know the perpetrator and they cannot be located by law enforcement.

It is important to note that each state has its own procedures and laws that govern identity theft lawsuits. If an individual is considering filing a civil lawsuit based on identity theft, they should consult with a local attorney for advice regarding identity theft lawsuits.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help?

If you have been charged with online impersonation in Texas, it is essential to consult with a Texas fraud lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you on any available defenses as well as the best way to fight the charges against you.

If you have been a victim of online impersonation, a lawyer can help you take the necessary steps to restore your identity. In addition, if you are interested in filing a civil lawsuit, your lawyer can assist you throughout the process.


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