So, despite your best efforts, you may have been cat-fished, doxed or otherwise victim to an online scam. Your information is probably now out into the Internet and a stranger that you may have trusted now has personally identifying information. So, your next question may be “well, what comes next?” Naturally, there are certain measures that a person can take to freeze credit, change phone numbers, or otherwise make information unavailable. However, the real question, and the more frightening one to a person may be: “When might I need an attorney?” Naturally, the actions they take may result in damages, and in some cases, the actions of the scammer are against the law, and may provide civil remedies. That said, there are different factors that may make hiring an attorney a prudent act compared to other scenarios. What are these factors? Who might you recover against? What might make you want to use legal actions to protect yourself?
What are the online scam factors?
In any online scam, there are five factors that generally come into play:
- Amount of information taken;
- Type of information taken;
- Embarrassment to the target;
- Motivation for the online scam; and
- Relationship between the target and perpetrator.
In essence, an individual can use these five factors to help weigh the need for legal action in response to an online scam. The first four factors relate to harm that the target may suffer. While any exposure of information may give rise to a legal claim, the individual target may not deem it worth litigation. If it is a mere name and a picture of from 20 years ago, the individual may deem that there’s little risk to their personal information from the indiscretion. In comparison, intimate or financial information may weigh in favor of an attorney’s involvement. Likewise, the motivation for the online scam matters. If it is known that the scam was meant for financial gain or to harass the individual, then it would probably give more weight to an attorney’s involvement. Ultimately, all of this must be weighed to determine the harm that a target may suffer as a result of the online scam.
Following those four factors, the final factor is the relationship between the target and perpetrator. Even if there is a large amount of information that would give cause to legal action, there are certain complications that may sway indifference to a lawsuit.
Breaking the tie
As a final factor for consideration is the ease of finding the possible defendant. While there are ways to investigate non-parties for relevant information, however, it creates an additional layer of complication. In other cases, such as those where one might be aware of the perpetrator’s identity, this can effectively be used as a tie-breaking factor since identifying, locating, suing, and prosecuting the online scammer is probably less complicated.
At our law firm, we assist clients with legal issues related to internet and technology. Please contact us to set up an initial consultation.