Am I allowed to question a suspected con artist’s family members?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Am I allowed to question a suspected con artist’s family members?

I am currently being scammed by my landlord. She was already known to use 2 different first names throughout legal documents, even alternating between signatures. She recently served me with an eviction notice containing false documents and counterfeiting my signature and a criminal investigation is just beginning. I did some google magic, utilized truthfinder and after a lot of digging, found a different name with the same first letters of her first and middle names connected to 3 different last names, 1 of which is her current last name. Further digging revealed that this person shared an address with my landlord’s mother in another state. I’m almost positive these names all belong to the same person my landlord. I want to reach out to her mother and other family members, not to harass at all but to ask if they know their relative by these names and if there is any explanation. I’ve never heard of a situation like this before and don’t want to accidentally overstep the boundaries of any laws so I thought I’d ask here first to make sure it’s legal to do my own investigating like this.

Asked on May 28, 2017 under Criminal Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You are allowed to question them so long as there is no protective or restraining order preventing it--anyone can ask any other person any questions he or she wants, if there is no court order to the contrary. But you can't make them talk to you or answer--they can simply refuse, hang-up, slam the door in your face, etc. And if you contact them after they tell you to not do so or say anything remotely threatening, they can look to file charges for stalking, harassment, etc. If you say anything defamatory about your landlord to them, and that gets back to your landlord, the landlord could sue you for defamation. And anything they should say to you would not be admissible in court unless they said it again in a deposition under oath or in court--anything said out of court by someone (other than at a formal deposition) is hearsay and inadmissible. In short, this is a bad idea: it could cause you liability, and is unlikely to help you. But if you insist on contacting them, you can.

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