This question is related to this case.

As far as I understand, email address (the domain) is like the letterhead. Email sent from an unofficial domain is not official.

For example, if I send an email from my gmail account and sign

John Doe

President of the United States of America

Is it still a criminal offense because of being an imposter?

  • You'll have to specify location, but I doubt this will be illegal anywhere unless you are trying to make the person you send the message to believe what you say is true, just including it as a signature probably isn't enough. I don't believe The Presidents of the United States of America ever ran into this issue due to their name. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 11:29
  • 2
    You seem to have a fundamentally flawed understanding of how the "From" field in an email and its domain actually work. I could send you an email which looks like I'm the CEO of IBM, or the proprietor of the corner shop down the street, or your cousin. The domain name in the "From" field doesn't really mean much.
    – brhans
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 18:23
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    Actually, sender information in emails is exactly equivalent to sender information in regular letters: I can write any name and address I want on the envelope, and any desired name and address on the letterhead (inside the envelope).
    – chirlu
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 20:45

2 Answers 2


Is it still a criminal offense because of being an imposter?

In some jurisdictions, it could be fraud. In the case you link to, key elements of the crime of fraud are missing. There appears to be no intentional deception, nor improper benefit. But in general, if someone sends an e-mail message under false pretenses (or any other communication), and thereby gains a benefit (particularly at someone else's expense), then that is likely to be a crime.

Fraud is also a civil tort, but you didn't ask about that. Still, in the linked circumstances, there does not seem to be any party harmed to the extent that it would be worthwhile to pursue it in court.


As far as I'm aware, there is no law in the world that specifically regulates RFC-5321 style email. Laws are written broader than that, and cover "electronic communication" in a broad sense. Therefore, laws don't deal with the distinction between RFC-5321 From: headers and RFC 3676 signatures.

Judges will look at the whole picture of an actual case, and not at hypothetical cases.

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