If a contract is breached, the victim should be able to sue the party/person who breached it. But what if all they know about the other person is his/her name (potentially fake even) and maybe an email? If the victim doesn't sue the other party, then is there any point in the contract?


1 Answer 1


You can hire someone to locate the defendant with the information that you have, or you can apply to a court for permission to serve them with process via "substituted service" because their physical address can't be determined.

But, in general, better business practice is to not enter into contracts with people with whom you have more than a name that might be false, and an email address, unless you have some means of non-judicial enforcement of your agreement (like the practical ability to shut down access to an internet subscription).

If you don't even know if someone's name is real and have done nothing to confirm that then you also have no assurances that they have any assets from which you could collect if you won a breach of contract lawsuit.

If you deal with large numbers of people in low value contracts, it may be worth treating the fact that some contracts are effectively unenforceable as a cost of doing business. But, if a contract is important, it was foolish from a business perspective to rely on a contract on that basis alone, even if it is legal to do so.

  • 1
    Serving legal papers on people with minimal information is a big industry. Often people have a bit more than just a name and email (e.g. in divorce/child support cases). But using a process server or private detective seems to be the primary method in such cases. If someone has been using an email for years, it may be trivial to track them down, but if it's a fake name and email, then options are more limited (particularly if no crime was committed).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 10:58
  • @Ohwilleke: Is there a reason you didn't mention subpoenaing the user's identity? I'm not asking this rhetorically: Your answers are consistently comprehensive, so I assume this was intentional.
    – Brian
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 18:47
  • @Brian Thanks for the compliment. Most importantly, usually, in the cases where the true owner is hard to identify, the email is provided by an email system provider who doesn't know the user's true identity. For example, I have a hotmail account, but no one affiliated with providing that account has any information about my address, phone number, true name, or DOB. Also, subpoena power is not always available until the case is filed and served, although there is a fair amount of jurisdiction to jurisdiction variation on this point. When it is an option, it could be worth doing, however.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 19:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .