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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 8445
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I live in the UK. Please could you help- I have chatted to

Customer Question

I live in the UK. Please could you help- I have chatted to people on an online messenger app under a fake name, but using a photo I found on Facebook. The peoples was speaking to were over 18, and I was not asking for any financial details or trying to commit any kind of fraud.The person who's picture it was has now found out. I have now deleted the profile, but am terrified that I have committed a crime and will be arrested.1) is impersonating someone online a crime?
2) could it be considered defamation somehow?
3) will the police try to trace me through my closed account?
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 month ago.

Has the person whose photograph it was made any complaint or has it been reported otherwise? Do you know who the person is or was it just someone you found?

Why did you actually do this?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
The person is someone I used to know, and it was done as a way to speak to people without using my own name or picture. I am not sure if he has reported this or complained otherwise, but I removed the profile immediately when I realised that he had become aware his picture was online. What is the legal position on this?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 month ago.

Apart from impersonating a police officer, there is no offence of impersonating another person provided you have not gained any advantage either monetary or otherwise provided you have not impersonated them by accessing their computer.

You are in breach of the terms and conditions of the website but they are unlikely to prosecute you by way of a civil claim.

If however you communicate with the third party you potentially commit the offence of misusing private information of the person that you were impersonating even if that was only a photograph. You potentially defame the person if you said things which they would not have said or you led whoever you were dealing with to deal with the impersonated person in a way that person would not have dealt with them, themselves.

There is a breach of copyright passing off in respect of using the image.

The offence of fraud is unlikely to be made out unless there was some kind of gain or intend to make gain and there is also the potential offence of obtaining goods or services by deception.

The police are not likely to be interested but if the victim makes a complaint, and your identity was known, the matter is likely to be investigated in case it was part of something overall which was more sinister.

From what you’ve said however although there may be an investigation (the police are overstretched and) unless there has been a more serious crime committed, it’s not likely to go any further than a knock on the door and a quiet word. To be honest, I would be surprised if it got that far.

Can I clarify anything for you?

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We can still exchange emails. Best wishes.


F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 8445
Experience: I have been practising for 30 years.
F E Smith and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you,That is a very comprehensive and reassuring email. The person whose picture it was is not aware that it was me who was using it, and there would be no way to know that it was not me, aside from the police requesting the data from the service provider. I understand that this is not something they would do for what you have said would only be a quiet word and no committed crime. Is my understanding correct in that they would be unlikely to request a company in another country to do this, just for misuse of a picture?
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Also, I'm still currently working with the person, though we're no longer friends- I'll be sure to avoid anything like this in future, but thank you for your help.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 month ago.

It isn’t reassuring intentionally. I just tell how it is and fortunately, it’s reasonably favourable for you.

If the person doesn’t know it was you, it is most unlikely the police are going to investigate particularly as it’s now been taken down. They really do have other things to do. Would be different if there was a serious assault or murder involved.

I would be very surprised if they even contacted the website.

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