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Is Catfishing a Crime?

Online dating scam

Texas law does not recognize or define a criminal offense known as romance scams. Therefore, you cannot get criminal charges for misrepresenting your physical appearance, political views, or relationship intentions on a dating site. Likewise, it is none of the law’s business if you lead your dating matches to believe that your financial situation is better or worse than it really is.

Garden variety dating site drama becomes a romance scam when you lie to your match about your financial situation to get your match to give you money. When these false statements occur through online chat, on the phone, or in a text messaging app, the crime qualifies as wire fraud. 

The penalties for financial fraud in Texas vary based on the amount of money involved. The state will upgrade the crime (for example, from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony) if these situations involve an individual above the age of 60.

Financial crimes rarely occur in isolation. Depending on the content of your conversations with another party and what was done with the money after receiving it, it could be possible to be charged with another financial crime, such as identity theft or money laundering. 

No matter the charges, though, it is essential that you understand being accused of a crime does not make you guilty of committing one. You are presumed innocent, and you have the right to representation by a lawyer.

A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Perspective on Romance Scams

Everyone who is old enough to have a credit card or debit card number to enter when subscribing to a dating website knows that you should proceed with caution. The events leading up to signing up for a dating website vary from one person to another, but they all relate to a desire to meet people that one has not met in person. Therefore, everyone on the site has an agenda, as well as a motive to seem as appealing as possible. If you are lucky, your biggest disappointment will be that your match does not look as glamorous in real life as in the profile picture or makes annoying slurping noises while eating. 

Almost anyone who has been on more than a few dates arising from dating website matches has some horror stories about dating partners with ulterior motives. Red flags go up, for example, when your date makes sexual innuendos in every sentence or immediately starts trying to recruit you for a multilevel marketing business opportunity. All of this is legal. If it were against the law to make misleading statements on a dating website or to be dishonest on a first date, then none of us would be innocent, and the dating websites would have gone offline in the days of dial-up Internet. E

It is possible, however, to get charged with fraud or other financial crimes if you are accused of perpetrating a romance scam. Contact a Texas white-collar crime lawyer if you are being accused of defrauding a dating partner.

Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC, About Financial Crime Cases to discuss your charges and start fighting today.

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