Call Today 803.359.3301
Is Catfishing Illegal in South Carolina?

Is Catfishing Illegal in South Carolina?

Is Catfishing Illegal in South Carolina?

Thanks to the anonymity of the internet and social media, catfishing, sexting, and related behaviors have become more prevalent in recent years, making it all the more important for South Carolina residents to understand their rights under the law when it comes to computer crimes and other serious criminal offenses.

The term “catfishing” is used to describe the practice of impersonating another person online for various malicious purposes. Such reasons may be for financial gain, sexual gratification, or other forms of deception. While catfishing is not a stand-alone crime on its own, individuals who engage in “catfishing” in South Carolina can face various criminal charges.

For example, catfishing often entails some form of identity theft or fraud. Defamation or libel can also come into play when a person purposely attempts to disparage another through false information or slanderous remarks with malicious intent. If catfishing involves the sexual exploitation of minors, this can be charged as a serious sex crime.

Those found guilty of catfishing in South Carolina can reap severe legal penalties, even for those who were unaware of the illegality of their behavior. If you’re facing criminal charges in Lexington or the surrounding area, it’s critical to turn to a trusted criminal defense attorney who can defend your rights and restore your freedom.

Keep reading to learn more about catfishing and its associated criminal penalties in South Carolina.

When Is Catfishing a Crime?

While catfishing in itself isn’t illegal, there’s something to be said about using another’s picture and name to communicate with others on the internet, as these behaviors can quickly involve or lead to other illicit activities that are illegal under South Carolina law.

Various criminal offenses may be connected to criminal cases involving catfishing, such as fraud, impersonation, slander or libel, and more. Consider the following crimes with potential connections to catfishing in South Carolina:


Catfishing involves deliberately impersonating another person or entity for malicious purposes, such as financial gain, sexual gratification, or emotional gratification. From creating fake social media profiles to stealing another person’s identity for dating apps, many “catfishers” can knowingly or otherwise engage in fraudulent acts punishable under the law.

In South Carolina, fraud is committed when one uses false pretenses to obtain money or property from another person. This may include presenting phony documents, providing false personal information, or deceiving someone through an online identity created with the intention of deceiving them.

Catfishers can also use their fake online profiles to solicit donations or defraud people out of money through investment scams. These activities are illegal and can result in serious criminal penalties if convicted.


Catfishing not only involves deceitful impersonation, but can also involve making false statements or misrepresentations that can harm another person's reputation. This is considered defamation in South Carolina and is punishable under the law.

Defamation is defined as making untrue statements about a person or business that harms their reputation in some way. Defamatory statements can take the form of written words, spoken words, images, symbols, or gestures. Generally, this crime can be further broken down into one of the following categories:

  • Libel – This is considered written defamation, or defamation accomplished by actions or conduct.
  • Slander – This is considered spoken defamation against another person to harm their reputation.

Depending on the severity of the defamation, a person can face civil penalties in addition to criminal penalties, such as monetary damages awarded for loss of income due to the false statement or injury to their reputation.

Sexual Exploitation

Catfishing can be used as a form of sexual exploitation in South Carolina. For instance, catfishers may create fake profiles of minors in an effort to lure other underage individuals into engaging in sexual activities with them. This is considered sexual exploitation of a minor under the law and carries very severe consequences if convicted.

Keep in mind that even if no physical contact occurred between the perpetrator and the minor, they are still liable for prosecution, as it only takes one instance of solicitation or attempted solicitation of a minor for the crime to be committed. However, it's worth noting that criminal penalties can be enhanced if actual physical contact occurred.

Additional sex crimes related to catfishing include:

  • Statutory rape
  • Sex trafficking
  • Soliciting a minor online
  • Possession, distribution, or production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) formerly known as child pornography

Infringement of Intellectual Property

Catfishing can also be used to commit infringement of intellectual property, which is best defined as the unauthorized use of copyrighted material or other protected information.

This offense is committed by creating false profiles with the intention of stealing someone else’s personal information or copyrighted material. It’s also possible to infringe upon another person’s trademark by using their logo, name, slogan, or other identifying features on a fake profile in an effort to mislead others.

If found guilty, a person may be subject to both criminal and civil penalties, such as fines and damages awarded to the victim for any losses suffered as a result of their actions. In South Carolina, copyright infringement is considered a form of theft. A conviction is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or up to $150,000 in fines per offense.

Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyers in Lexington, SC

Since 2004, the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC has dedicated itself to defending the rights of the accused in Lexington and beyond. Whether you were unaware that you were committing a criminal act or simply made an honest mistake, our experienced criminal defense lawyers can fight to restore your freedom and protect your hard-earned reputation in criminal court.

A criminal conviction can result in severe legal penalties, from imprisonment to hefty fines to mandatory registration as a sex offender. If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s crucial to turn to a qualified legal advocate you can trust to keep your best interests at heart. Reach out to our firm to learn how we can collaborate with you and provide the strong advocacy you require to be successful in court.

Facing criminal charges in South Carolina? Turn to a firm you can trust to safeguard your future. Call (803) 359-3301 to schedule a consultation


Get Started Today

We're Available to Schedule Immediate, Same-Day Consultations
    • Please enter your name.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
    • Please enter your email address.
      This isn't a valid email address.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.