You might be surprised to realize the Internet has been around for a couple of decades already. However, many laws surrounding Internet activity are still changing and evolving in every state, including North Dakota. Internet crime is an aspect of illegal activity never before seen in history. The anonymity of the web also tempts many people to act in a certain way online that they would never do in public. It is possible that you may be committing a crime without knowing that what you are doing is illegal.

There are some people who deliberately mislead others in social media or on dating sites, whether for financial gain or entertainment. This is an activity that has become known as “catfishing.” In a catfishing scam, a person pretends to be someone he or she is not. An example of this might be a woman who posts false pictures and information on a dating site, attempting to convince potential love interests to send her money or gifts.

According to Forbes, some types of Internet bullying may also fall into the catfishing category. The first known mention of catfishing in a courtroom setting occurred after two students at an Indiana university set up a fake Facebook profile to trick a former roommate they didn’t like. After several weeks of conversing with the other student, pretending to be a 15-year-old girl, the pair convinced him to meet with “her” at a movie theater. They proceeded to videotape the man’s reaction when he arrived at the theater, and posted the video online accusing him of being a pedophile. The incident went to court, where the judge said the two men’s conduct was objectionable.

Misleading others online for fun, to get back at someone or to receive money may lead to serious charges. As Internet laws become more defined, what you think is a harmless prank may be considered a crime. This information is intended to be general in nature, and should not be taken as legal advice.