Catfishing in Germany

Lawyers for German Criminal Law

Catfishing in Germany

Lawyers for German Criminal Law

In times of social media, online forums and especially dating platforms, many users become victims of a “catfish”, a fake profile. This action can have profound consequences – both financially and psychologically. It is not uncommon for a relationship of trust to be created with the help of a fake profile, which is then shamelessly exploited.

Fraud (§ 263 para. 1 StGB) is the most common offence in this context. According to this, anyone who, intending to obtain an unlawful pecuniary advantage for himself or a third party, damages the assets of another person by creating or maintaining an error by false pretences or by distorting or suppressing true facts is liable to a custodial sentence of up to five years or to a monetary penalty.

If you have been the victim of such fraud, extortion or any other offence related to fake profiles in Germany, it is advisable to immediately consult a criminal lawyer and file a criminal complaint with the police.

Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte offers comprehensive legal support to victims of criminal offences. Our German criminal lawyers ensure that all evidence is secured immediately and that all formalities required for a criminal complaint are duly complied with to identify the perpetrator.

You are here: Home » Criminal Defence Lawyer in Germany » Catfishing in Germany- Advice from German Criminal Lawyers

Google Rating | Based on 419 reviews

What is Catfishing?

What exactly is catfishing, and to what extent is this behaviour punishable in Germany?

Catfishing is also called “realfake” in Germany. A catfish is a person who pretends to be another person online. The catfish either copies the identity of a real person or creates a freely invented identity. The false profile is provided with photos and information about the pretended person.

Family members and friends are often invented, and corresponding profiles are created to make the false identity look as authentic as possible.

In social networks, the catfish contacts another person via the created profile and tries to establish a relationship of some kind. The motives can be of various sorts. Often, the catfish intends to establish a romantic relationship via the internet and gain their counterpart’s trust. This action is to uncover intimate information or data or receive money. In addition, false profiles are used to coerce others or to gain confidence or sympathy.

Catfishing can be challenging to detect, as a special effort is often behind it. However, a warning sign is if the person does not want to have any contact in real life and wants to have a purely online relationship. Video chats are also often rejected under a pretext.

If you are unsure about the person for these reasons, it is advisable to approach the situation cautiously and avoid providing personal information and data.

Is Catfishing a Criminal Offence in Germany?

Catfishing in Germany is not a criminal offence in itself. Anyone who pretends to be someone else on the internet with the help of a false profile is generally not liable to prosecution. Creating a profile with false information may only violate the terms of use of the respective social network.

However, catfishing can lead to criminal liability if the use of the false profile is accompanied by actions relevant under criminal law. The circumstances of the specific case are, therefore, decisive.

Fraud, Extortion & Coercion

Frequently, fraud is committed or at least attempted through catfishing. As a rule, the catfish first establishes a familiar relationship with their victim, primarily by paying attention to them and showing them understanding. The catfish then pretends to need money and seeks it from their victim. The trust previously established is supposed to induce the victim to transfer the urgently needed money.

According to § 263, para. 1 German Criminal Code (StGB), fraud is committed, among other things, when someone, to obtain an unlawful pecuniary advantage for himself or a third party, damages the assets of another by creating a misapprehension through false pretences. Thus, if the catfish deceives another person through the false profile, obtains an unlawful pecuniary advantage through this deception and thus causes damage to another person, this constitutes fraud.

However, since even the attempt at fraud is punishable under § 263 (2) German Criminal Code, it is not necessary for the victim to actually respond to the request for money for the offence to be punishable.

Fraud is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years or a fine.

Another possible motivation for catfishing is extortion (§ 253 StGB). In this case, the catfish wants their counterpart to send them a nude photo, for example, or to disclose sensitive information or data. Coercion (§ 240 StGB) can also be realised concerning catfishing.

Stalking, § 238 StGB

Under certain circumstances, catfishing can result in stalking under § 238 StGB. Stalking is punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine. It is understood to mean actions “which are aimed at interfering with the victim’s personal sphere of life through direct or indirect approaches to the victim and thereby impairing their freedom of action and decision” (BT-Drucksache 16/575, p. 7).

Stalking can explicitly also occur through the use of means of communication on platforms such as social networks or online forums. In this case, the perpetrator must persistently attempt to make contact. A repeated commission is required. This must express that the perpetrator acts out of disregard for the opposing will of the victim or out of indifference to their wishes so that future harassment can also be assumed.

Furthermore, it is a prerequisite that the stalking is likely to seriously affect the victim’s way of life.