Impersonation, or assuming the identity and role of either a specific person or functionary with intent to deceive others, is taken as a serious offense in the eyes of the law. Pretending to be someone or something that you are not can be punished with jail time, hefty fines, and probationary measures.
The motivations for impersonation vary widely, as does the success of the poser. A man in New York was recently found to have been practicing law with a well-known firm for over three years before his employers found out that he had joined them with a fabricated history, having never actually attended his supposed school or passed the bar exam. Interestingly, this was only considered a misdemeanor, but the accused did settle with his former firm, and most states see such blatant professional deception as a felony.
One of the biggest concerns of criminal impersonation, and perhaps that taken most seriously, is posing as an officer of the law. Given the total authority due to police by the general public, it is no surprise that some individuals would risk major charges to commit scams and frauds or gain certain types personal access.
A new and rising concern in impersonation crime involves the internet. Laws are emerging across the country to confront the growing problem of assuming another person’s identity online, which can be as simple as proclaiming that you are “such-and-such” person to another individual or in a public forum.
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