While it is true that one can remain anonymous online, anyone who misrepresents him- or herself might face criminal charges. In Michigan and elsewhere, misrepresentation with criminal intent could be regarded as computer and internet crimes. An example is someone who falsely claims to have the qualifications required for some fields like law and medicine. Practicing in professional fields without the necessary qualifications, giving advice and charging people for those services can lead to hefty fines and even time in prison.
Running a phishing scam is also illegal. That involves creating a fictitious online identity with the intention of establishing a financial, emotional or physical relationship with another internet user. It does not always include the intent to gain financially, and cases exist in which a fictitious individual tormented someone emotionally to such an extent that the victim committed suicide. Even such emotionally loaded cases could lead to criminal charges.
Online fraud could also involve the impersonation of an actual individual rather than a fictitious one. If claiming to be another person is done with the intent to defraud, threaten, harm or intimidate someone else who is unaware that the online personality is not whom he or she pretends to be, it could be deemed criminal. In addition to civil claim, criminal charges might lead to hefty fines and time in the county jail.
There are many gray areas in the law when it comes to computer and internet crimes, and laws are constantly evolving. Individuals in Michigan who find themselves facing charges of misrepresenting themselves online are advised to seek legal counsel immediately. When specific laws to deal with an alleged internet crime do not exist, current legislation is broadly interpreted to deal with the case. Anyone who is accused of such crimes will find that it could be a significant asset to have an experienced criminal defense attorney to advocate for him or her.