The news media today is buzzing about the Manti Teo story. For those of you who have not heard this story, here is a quick summary:
-Boy meets girl online.
-Boy dates girl online.
-Boy talks to girl on the phone.
-Boy never meets girl in person.
-Turns out the girl is not who she says she is…
In today’s internet based society, this is not a new issue. In fact, there is even an MTV tv show about people just like Manti Teo who were subject to this kind of Fraud (show is called Catfish: The TV Show). In fact, a new slang term has arisen from this act: Cat-fishing.
With a high profile athlete like Mr. Teo, there have been more and more questions asked about what kind of criminal or civil charges that can be put against someone who has tricked another person online in this way.
Criminal Charges are out of your hands. You can make a police report if you wish, but ultimately any kind of criminal charges will be levied by the Prosecutor’s Office (Federal, State or District Attorneys), and the decision to make criminal charges rests solely with whichever office prosecutes criminals in your jurisdiction.
However, civil charges are something that you, or an attorney on your behalf, can file in Court. The most classic Causes of Actions that you could use in a case like this would be Fraud or Misrepresentation. In many states, Fraud or Misrepresentation must be plead very specifically and with attention to detail. You must show that whoever “Cat-fished” you did so intentionally. That they truly intended to make you to believe that they were a different person.
You also need to show how you were damaged by something like this. How did this “fraud” affect you? Did you get anxiety? Did you have to go see a doctor? Or perhaps you got so stressed out that you missed days of work? In Manti Teo’s case, he could possibly say that his draft status was affected by this event. That having been lied too by another person and thought to believe he was in a relationship with a woman led to an embarrassing situation that has brought national attention to his story. That furthermore, this national attention has led to what could be a bump in his draft standings. In Mr. Teo’s case you are arguably talking about millions of dollars in damages because of this Fraudulent incident.
(Please Note: It is unknown by this law firm whether or not Manti Teo will be pursuing legal action nor has anyone from this law firm ever contacted or communicated with Mr. Teo regarding this matter. Everything in this article is written on pure speculation and facts are taken from news media reports.)
Now, depending on what jurisdiction you’re from or what the facts of your case are may differ on what kind of causes of actions to allege. It is highly recommended that if something like this did happen to you and if you are seeking reparation for damages caused by this kind of Fraud… that you should contact an Attorney immediately.