What to do if someone impersonates me online

Last updated on August 14, 2012

In the age of technology and widespread abundance of social media platforms, it is inevitable that there will be mischief-makers taking advantage of technology to suit their own nefarious needs. Some traverse the internet, pretending to be another person online. What do you do if you end up as a victim of such pretenders?

If you ever come across someone on Facebook or other online services pretending to be you or someone you know, you should first make a report to Facebook or the relevant service provider. (Please do check that it is not a rashly concocted birthday prank beforehand.)

After determining that the impersonation is not a prank, you should lodge a police report. The perpetrator may then be charged for cheating by personation under section 416 of the Penal Code, where cheating is defined by section 415 of the Penal Code as an activity which:

“fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit to do if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to any person in body, mind, reputation or property”

Thus if Farid, pretending to be Ahmad, induces Tricia, Ahmad’s girlfriend, to transfer $10 to his DBS account, he may become guilty of such a crime.

It does not matter whether the person being impersonated is a real or fictitious person. The impersonator may be punishable with an imprisonment up to 5 years, or a fine, or both, as stipulated under section 419 of the Penal Code.

Depending on the severity of the communication by the impersonator to the victim, he may also be charged for criminal defamation under section 499 of the Penal Code. Any word or communication, published, written, electronic or media, that lowers the perceived moral or intellectual character of the victim, may render the accused liable for criminal defamation. Civil defamation suits may also be filed if the victim intends to seek compensation.

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