Is it legal to use a Fake Name / Pen Name to sell products?

by Big Money 87 replies
Is it legal to use a Fake Name / Pen Name to sell products?

I know that tons of people use pen names when writing articles and there are plenty of people that use pen names on their sales pages when selling products on Clickbank etc.

Does anyone know if it is legal to use and sign your sales page with a pen name?
#main internet marketing discussion forum #fake #legal #pen #products #sell
  • Profile picture of the author BloggingPro
    Well since people are allowed to sell printed books using a pen name I don't think its illegal to sell a product under a pen name. I know if you want to accept payments via PayPal online you better use your real name, because if anything goes wrong its going to be hell.

    When I promote affiliate products I always use a pen name, but my check is made to my real name. When I sell an IM product I use my real name.
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    • Profile picture of the author Big Money
      Originally Posted by BloggingPro View Post

      Well since people are allowed to sell printed books using a pen name I don't think its illegal to sell a product under a pen name. I know if you want to accept payments via PayPal online you better use your real name, because if anything goes wrong its going to be hell.

      When I promote affiliate products I always use a pen name, but my check is made to my real name. When I sell an IM product I use my real name.
      I sell all of my products through Clickbank so Paypal isn't an issue.

      I know that very famous people do sell actual books in stores using pen names.

      I just didn't know if there was any way that it could be misrepresentation or fraud.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rich Struck
    No you will go to jail.
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    • Profile picture of the author Big Money
      Originally Posted by Rich Struck View Post

      No you will go to jail.
      I'm not sure if you're being serious or if you're joking, but I know that big-time marketers like Frank Kern and Eben Pagan do it. I'm not saying it's legal, I'm just saying they do it.
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      • Profile picture of the author Big Money
        Does anybody else know anything about this subject?
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        • Profile picture of the author David Uebergang
          Plenty of people use Pen Names and I don't believe there's anything wrong with it. There are benefits to both sides and I suppose it depends on what you're selling. If you're promoting dog products it may not be beneficial to take the role of an expert on dogs with a picture of you fishing, on the contrary it will be much easier to take on that role if you have a picture of you (or your pen) at the front of a dog class, or in a dog store. You get the point.

          Hopefully that helps,

          David

          ps. I think Rich was being sarcastic. If he wasn't, say goodbye to a good portion of IMers
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      • Profile picture of the author BruceWood
        Originally Posted by Big Money View Post

        I'm not sure if you're being serious or if you're joking, but I know that big-time marketers like Frank Kern and Eben Pagan do it. I'm not saying it's legal, I'm just saying they do it.
        Pen names are for authors and artists. Business identities are another thing altogether.

        Those who operate businesses under assumed names often have corporations or LLCs, and that may be the case with messieurs Kern & Pagan. Anyone doing business under an assumed identity can stay on the right side of the law by registering the name with their local licensing authorities as a d/b/a (doing business as) and then posting their business name & address on their accounts.

        Check your local/state laws, but here in the US businesses are allowed to operate in almost any name they choose, as long as it is properly registered.
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        • Profile picture of the author Big Money
          Originally Posted by BruceWood View Post

          Pen names are for authors and artists. Business identities are another thing altogether.

          Those who operate businesses under assumed names often have corporations or LLCs, and that may be the case with messieurs Kern & Pagan. Anyone doing business under an assumed identity can stay on the right side of the law by registering the name with their local licensing authorities as a d/b/a (doing business as) and then posting their business name & address on their accounts.

          Check your local/state laws, but here in the US businesses are allowed to operate in almost any name they choose, as long as it is properly registered.
          I still get paid under my real name and my domains and everything else are registered under my real name. I have so many different sites in different niches and each niche I use a different name. I would hate to file and have to pay for a different dba for each site, are you sure this is necessary just for using the name on the site?
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      • Profile picture of the author goindeep
        Originally Posted by Big Money View Post

        I'm not sure if you're being serious or if you're joking, but I know that big-time marketers like Frank Kern and Eben Pagan do it. I'm not saying it's legal, I'm just saying they do it.
        No seriously, you will go to prison...
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    • Profile picture of the author alcymart
      Originally Posted by Rich Struck View Post

      No you will go to jail.
      Yep, you don't pass Go, and straight to Jail! LOL

      Bernard
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      • Profile picture of the author Doug Wakefield
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        Happens a lot.
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        • Profile picture of the author entry
          Eban Pagal used a fake one for double your dating
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      • Profile picture of the author ttdub
        Originally Posted by alcymart View Post

        Yep, you don't pass Go, and straight to Jail! LOL

        Bernard
        Don't forget that you can't collect 200 dollars...

        In all honestly, I don't think there is anything wrong with it. I mean, people publish books with a pen name, and people use usernames to sell products all the time, which aren't their real name. I think you're good.
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  • Profile picture of the author johnny_h
    Pen names can be an acceptable thing given one consideration: are you using the pen name to defraud or deceive the party you're selling to? If the answer is no (and in almost every case it would be) then there's no problem. If you are, however, then that would be fraud.

    A good example would be if you were publishing a book or article about politics under the name Bill O'Reilly, it could be construed that you were cashing in on the real Bill O'Reilly's fame by tricking buyers to think the book was written by the actual celebrity. You'd also get a lot of heat from O'Reilly's lawyers because I'm sure he's filed a copyright on his name...

    But, for everyone on here, for the most part, there should be absolutely no trouble using a pen name.
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  • Profile picture of the author lawsonms
    This is a little off the subject but it is against federal law to register a domain name using a fake name.
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  • Profile picture of the author Headfirst
    You have to register a DBA (Doing Business As) with your county. Then you can receive payments under your nom de plume.
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  • Profile picture of the author Floyd Fisher
    If it were a crime, then 'Betty Crocker' would be on the FBI's 10 most wanted list.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Jordan
    Any financial transaction like selling, trading, buying must be made using your real name otherwise you can be prosecuted for fraud if anything goes wrong with the transaction.

    I think you can go to your county courthouse and file a DBA (DBA means "doing business as," and allows a person to legally do business under a different name/Assumed Name. It normally costs $4-20 to file one depending on the location.
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    • Profile picture of the author Big Money
      Originally Posted by Mark Jordan View Post

      Any financial transaction like selling, trading, buying must be made using your real name otherwise you can be prosecuted for fraud if anything goes wrong with the transaction.

      I think you can go to your county courthouse and file a DBA (DBA means "doing business as," and allows a person to legally do business under a different name/Assumed Name. It normally costs $4-20 to file one depending on the location.
      You may not know the answer to this but if I file a dba and sell under the dba do I then have to have the money going into the bank account under my dba name or can I use my real name bank account.

      I would hate to file a different dba for every niche and then have to also open a different bank account for each one.
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      • Profile picture of the author BruceWood
        Originally Posted by Big Money View Post

        You may not know the answer to this but if I file a dba and sell under the dba do I then have to have the money going into the bank account under my dba name or can I use my real name bank account.

        I would hate to file a different dba for every niche and then have to also open a different bank account for each one.
        As my lawyer says, "you'll never know if you did it right until something goes wrong" (He's the voice of doom.)

        If you receive money in the d/b/a names, open one commercial account as "Your Real Name" d/b/a/ name 1, name 2, name 3 & etc. The bank will want to see proof of the registered d/b/as.

        (By the way- even to open a commercial account in your own name you may have to register it as a d/b/a!)

        (If you're an affiliate marketer just tell clickbank or whoever to make your check out to whatever name you want)

        But hey-- if you're doing business, you should have a business account and keep things separate from your personal stuff. Ask your accountant, check with a lawyer, and pray.
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        • Profile picture of the author Big Money
          Originally Posted by BruceWood View Post

          As my lawyer says, "you'll never know if you did it right until something goes wrong" (He's the voice of doom.)

          If you receive money in the d/b/a names, open one commercial account as "Your Real Name" d/b/a/ name 1, name 2, name 3 & etc. The bank will want to see proof of the registered d/b/as.

          (By the way- even to open a commercial account in your own name you may have to register it as a d/b/a!)

          (If you're an affiliate marketer just tell clickbank or whoever to make your check out to whatever name you want)

          But hey-- if you're doing business, you should have a business account and keep things separate from your personal stuff. Ask your accountant, check with a lawyer, and pray.
          I guess I'm going to set up some dba's. I'vebeen thinking about doing it anyway.

          ...and yeah you got it, just pray nothing happens. You can run into somebody that's sue happy at anytime.
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          • Profile picture of the author bloomingrose
            How about the company Fake Name Generator? They generate fake social security numbers,credit card numbers, families, birthdays the whole nine yards. They say that it is legal and people use their services but it feels weird to me.
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            • Profile picture of the author HeySal
              Originally Posted by bloomingrose View Post

              How about the company Fake Name Generator? They generate fake social security numbers,credit card numbers, families, birthdays the whole nine yards. They say that it is legal and people use their services but it feels weird to me.
              They say it's legal - well gee their word is good enough. I assume the FBI will have plenty to say about using fake SS #s and fake CC #s just before they throw your *** in jail for it.

              If you are planning to use different DBAs - make sure your purposes aren't self defeating. First off I assume that you aren't using them for malicious purposes (such as fraud). Second of all - - how are you going to brand yourself if you have several DBA's?

              You can't brand yourself if people don't know who you are. If there is any similarities in those businesses, you are way ahead of the game if you keep your real name and network yourself as yourself. If you have wildly diverging businesses you might want the DBA, but it's going to be much harder networking and branding separately than if you work on branding yourself as a person with a few different fields of interest.

              Think hard what the advantages are going to be before you bother with assuming a DBA.
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              • Profile picture of the author bloomingrose
                Yeah, I am a little stunned at the business model myself. I guess I'm not too black hat, I think I'll give it a pass.
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  • Profile picture of the author webapex
    Here's one relevant thread:


    I had just heard from a dark marketer who starts fresh adwords accounts and sets up hosting with gift cards registered to a false name and address, he likes to point out the distinction between the laws of the land and google rules, and is big enough to have a lawyer to help him avoid making dumb moves.

    EzineArticles seems to endorse the use of multiple pen names.

    Certainly any financial transactions have to be done under a name that can be tracked down, should any legal issues come up.
    Tried to find other references to this on the web, all states seem to require a DBA filing, although the term for it varies, some also require a public announcement in a local newspaper.

    Ran across a couple of interesting threads regarding anonymous defamation.

    Troubling decision in matter involving anonymous bloggers | Internet Cases - Evan Brown, Chicago attorney internet and intellectual property
    Should "Venting Online" lead to people being sued? | LinkedIn Answers | LinkedIn
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  • Profile picture of the author Trieu
    Its not illegal, just might lose some credibility if they find out who you really are.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bank
    I think if you disclose your pen and real name in your disclaimer you should be fine, that way you're not hiding anything.
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  • Profile picture of the author JustinDupre
    Lots of people have used pen names before. It's not against the law to do it.
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  • Profile picture of the author bizlinkx
    I think its called ghost writing in the real world. I'm not sure how you would accept payment unless someone knows your real name. There are however ways you can use an assumed name. Movie stars do it all the time. Google serach it . I wouldnt do it ppersonally but I'm sure you have your reasons.
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  • Profile picture of the author celente
    Right now I am thinking about evan pagan.

    His DYD site and his pen name : david deangelo

    Who cares about you name, as long as you are giving high quality stuff and helping people reach their goal....a name is useless. Just a title really.
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    • Profile picture of the author lgibbon
      Banned
      Originally Posted by celente View Post

      Who cares about you name, as long as you are giving high quality stuff and helping people reach their goal....a name is useless. Just a title really.
      It doesn't exactly build a lot of trust.
      But I guess we can expect that kind of comment
      from someone using a fake name themself.
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  • Profile picture of the author imback
    I would just use your own name... I mean it is personal branding right

    CHAD
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  • Profile picture of the author J Bold
    It's illegal, as all these people found out:

    11 Things: Famous pen names - SFGate

    Oh and Mrs. Butterworth and the Geico lizard are real people.
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  • Profile picture of the author snowcloud
    I truly think writing would be completely boring for me if I couldn't pick a few pen names.
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  • Profile picture of the author zamzung
    I don't think it's illegal, just you should somewhere have your real business address and contact... in my opinion, the most important thing is that customer can reach you or your business if something is wrong... if you have that allowed, I don't think there will be any problems... but if you are hiding behind the fake name / pen name to screw your customers, than that's a problem...
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Wilson
    Hi!

    Pen names are regularly used by internet marketers. But bear in mind that you're not branding your own name by using a pen name. In other words: if you choose a pen name, stick to it!

    Daniel
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  • Profile picture of the author scraig
    Excellent article here by Michel Fortin you may want to check out. Hope it helps. When And How To Use An Alias In Business | Michel Fortin on Copywriting, Marketing, Business, and Life
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  • Profile picture of the author flamewave
    Legal is dependent on country. That being said it is completly commonplace in the publishing world. In the wild west that is the internet I am sure that there is no harm. Representing yourself as something, as opposed to someONE, that your not is wrong and immoral. However that does mean that its done or not effective.
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  • Profile picture of the author philiptrav
    I have read of people going to jail for many years recently for making an extra Facebook profile.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      While the mechanics of staying on the right side of the law vary by locality, the broad brush strokes seem to be the same all over.

      And it usually tracks back to intent. Are you trying to defraud or trick people?

      The O'Reilly example above was a good one.

      Another would be tacking a title you didn't earn (especially 'Doctor') onto a pen name to lend legitimacy where none exists. Peddling a health book by 'Joe Blow' is different than the same book by 'Dr. Joseph Blow'.

      One thing to check into for your locality is setting up an umbrella company/DBA and using that to accept payments and publish/distribute products.
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      • Profile picture of the author capitalalchemy
        I was interested in this at one point as well. It should be no problem in my opinion, but unfortunately it is. Clickbank updated their policy to include a line that says something like "you must not misrepresent yourself or mislead your customers to believe that you are someone else".
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        • Profile picture of the author red zambala
          I am using pen name and it is not because I want to "misrepresent" something, but because my original non-english name/surename would confuse too much the potential prospects....
          To add on this - my original name according to gramar is changing endings depending on usage , what would be completely misrepresented in english...or would take too much attention just for a name....

          I guess many are using pen names, and especially the chinesse / malaysian marketers....I am european, but I still think the real name would be just misleading, if I wish to discuss IM not grammar...
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    • Profile picture of the author flamewave
      Originally Posted by philiptrav View Post

      I have read of people going to jail for many years recently for making an extra Facebook profile.
      I really hope your trolling.

      There is only one case I can find which is about identity theft. That is completely different as I stated in my above post.
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    • Profile picture of the author EdwinBrownJr
      Originally Posted by philiptrav View Post

      I have read of people going to jail for many years recently for making an extra Facebook profile.
      Really, I didn't here about this story...
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  • Profile picture of the author matthewfermin
    Try not to use fake name to be safe. You might end up in jail if you do.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Romaine
    "I'm Brian and so is my wife!..."
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  • Profile picture of the author dame016
    I think using a pen name is okay, as long as the seller uses his/her real name in the payment processes.
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  • Profile picture of the author hernalian
    Banned
    i think better used real name
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  • Ask Dr. Seuss -
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    • Profile picture of the author capitalalchemy
      Morally, and by old law, a pen name is acceptable. In fact, it has yet to be challenged that I know of in U.S. courts. However, Clickbank has an excerpt in their policy about using a name other than your own, especially if you are a product vendor. Do I agree with this? hell no. Is it ridiculous and unconstitutional in my opinion? yes. But that's MY opinion.

      So, instead -- if you are an affiliate -- why use a name at all? If you are building a mailing list, where you must use your real name? -- well, either be proud of what you are promoting enough to do so, or perhaps use an abbreviation with a last name.

      I don't know -- this is all stupid. I see so many big time marketers using pen names. I don't see it as a threat, unless in the unlikely event someone somehow sues you and calls it into action or something.
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  • Profile picture of the author sensei majid
    Can you link me to where Frank kern and Eben used pen names plz? Would love to see this... Thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author NACAdam
    Even though I'm male I post to alot of blogs as Shelly Armstrong never had anyone say anything for over 2 years
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  • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
    Originally Posted by Big Money View Post

    Does anyone know if it is legal to use and sign your sales page with a pen name?
    Under the English common law that forms the foundation of our own legal system, you have every right to use and be known by any name you want - so long as you are not committing fraud or attempting to avoid creditors.

    Basically, it's not legal to use a fake name to cheat people, but it's not legal to cheat people anyway. They just tack on this added charge that not only were you cheating people, you weren't even using your real name.
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    • Profile picture of the author J Bold
      Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post

      Under the English common law that forms the foundation of our own legal system, you have every right to use and be known by any name you want - so long as you are not committing fraud or attempting to avoid creditors.

      Basically, it's not legal to use a fake name to cheat people, but it's not legal to cheat people anyway. They just tack on this added charge that not only were you cheating people, you weren't even using your real name.
      Um, yeah, what he said.

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    • Profile picture of the author patrick6411
      Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post

      Under the English common law that forms the foundation of our own legal system, you have every right to use and be known by any name you want - so long as you are not committing fraud or attempting to avoid creditors.

      Basically, it's not legal to use a fake name to cheat people, but it's not legal to cheat people anyway. They just tack on this added charge that not only were you cheating people, you weren't even using your real name.
      You are 100% right here. My grandmother was an author and used a pen name, she called it a legal term which I don't remember. She told me the same as you above with one addition, that as long as you are paid in your own name and you don't avoid taxes, that it is legal.
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  • Profile picture of the author Marhelper
    Just ask Richard Bachman
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanphillips
    If your going to use a pen name their is a part of the brain that remembers the same sounds for example..

    David DeAngelo
    Coca Cola
    Jon Jepson etc.

    Think about that if your going to use a pen name. Every little helps
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  • Profile picture of the author AlenGeorgeson
    Yes you can do it, but you have to state it in your privacy policy, or your disclaimer. Nobody is going to read that, so don't worry about that too much.

    Cheers
    alen
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    • Profile picture of the author Mike Hill
      Originally Posted by AlenGeorgeson View Post

      Yes you can do it, but you have to state it in your privacy policy, or your disclaimer. Nobody is going to read that, so don't worry about that too much.

      Cheers
      alen
      Except the guy who asked this question ... LOL
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  • Profile picture of the author Arroway
    Some of the best marketers out there think pen names are just fine. Your name can and should be your brand, so choosing a good one is perfectly fine and I encourage it.
    In the end, it's not about the name you choose, but the integrity in the person behind that name.

    Allen
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  • Profile picture of the author sagits
    It's not illegal but I highly encourage you to use your real name, this way you increase credibility and confidence among your customers.
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  • Profile picture of the author Elena7856
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    • Profile picture of the author DGFletcher
      There's 'real' name, as in the name stuck on your birth certificate and attached to your ID numbers and blah blah blah. Then there's 'real' as in 'every single person on the face of this globe except people looking at my ID card calls me this'. Personally, that's the one I use for branding. DG. Everyone I know calls me DG, has for six years. I even make my teachers call me DG in class.
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  • Profile picture of the author paul_1
    In this business, I know of some who used a pen name. So I would assume that's okay. Unless otherwise you are selling big deals like a car or house & lot and whatnot - and have to deal with the person in real life.
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  • Profile picture of the author buckeyes09
    I've thought about this because I have an extremely long last name. On one hand, it'd be good for marketing/branding because no one would confuse me with someone else; on the other, it's a long name and hand to spell for those who don't know German.
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    Christian

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  • Profile picture of the author webmazter
    I have always used my pen name -seems to work for me also when the big players have something big to share they use unknowns and other players to endorse their products.......if you have watched anonymous the new movie that discredits shake spear than you would know where i am coming from.

    I believe using real names for excepting money and hosting are essential but making a WSO launch under a pen name like I did................Na works great!!!!

    trust me the Affiliate code was a knock out made thousands on its release- but guess what Michael Jones.......................is just a PEN NAME the guy behind the affiliate code is.....I'll just keep that to myself
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    I've used pen names in the past with no problems. But now i want to use my real name to build up my brand within my niche. Plus i'm looking to do big things with my business a few months from now.
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    • Profile picture of the author jayeye
      Originally Posted by Randall Magwood View Post

      I've used pen names in the past with no problems. But now i want to use my real name to build up my brand within my niche. Plus i'm looking to do big things with my business a few months from now.
      Same here. Thanks for your view,

      Mark Twain & Aunt Jemima
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  • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
    Why would you want to? Unless you're in showbiz it just suggests you have something to hide.
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    • Profile picture of the author Lucy Writes
      Originally Posted by sethczerepak View Post

      Why would you want to? Unless you're in showbiz it just suggests you have something to hide.

      I don't think it suggests you have something to hide. It could suggest a lot of things. Maybe you're in different niches and want a distinct persona for each niche to differentiate yourself (so you don't look like a jack of all trades). Maybe you're concerned about your privacy....let's face it, there are plenty of crazy people in the world and not everyone may be comfortable with putting too much personal information out there. Maybe you just like the idea of being someone else for a while each day, or being someone else as the representative of your product makes marketing it more exciting for you or helps you identify with it more. There could be LOTS of reasons for using a pseudonym.



      You may want to save your real name for one particular thing and use a pseudonym for something else. Lots of people do it for lots of reasons. I don't trust anyone any less for using a pseudonym. Many of my favorite authors have multiple pseudonyms for various genres they write in....and knowing this became an inspiration for me. I had my "novelist" pseudonym picked out from the time I was in high school, because I knew my favorite authors used pseudonyms, too.
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  • Profile picture of the author farishussain
    its is not legall
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  • Profile picture of the author MichaelSJohn
    It's certainly not illegal unless you are usurping someone's identity. You can make your name whatever you want and long as an attorney signs off that you were using it as an a.k.a you are fine.

    I knew a former cop that used to buy his houses as Fred Flinstone, Darth Vader, and the like and all his attorney had to do is sign off that it was his a.k.a or dba.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dylan Lars
    Here you go:
    Google this term:
    "is it illegal to sell things under an alias"
    Sounds basic, but hey - it works.

    It will bring you to a couple of articles. I won't waste time discussing it, but it is worth a read from eHow and MichelFortin.


    Hope it helps!
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by Dylan Lars View Post

      Here you go:
      Google this term:
      "is it illegal to sell things under an alias"
      Sounds basic, but hey - it works.

      It will bring you to a couple of articles. I won't waste time discussing it, but it is worth a read from eHow and MichelFortin.


      Hope it helps!
      Given a choice, from a credibility point of view, I'd start with MichelFortin. As a copywriter, he's one of the pro's pros for prose...
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  • Profile picture of the author GtGatsby
    Of course it's legal. What is illegal is trying to pass off as someone else. Besides that, you can call you whatever you want, within the bounds of decency.
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  • Profile picture of the author ibaweb
    It is legal to use a Fake Name / Pen Name to sell products. It would be tricky to choose a good and powerful Fake Name / Pen Name that is better than a real name in terms of marketing and advertising.
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  • Profile picture of the author makingiants
    Richard Bachman-author of the book 'Thinner'.
    (He was Stephen King, btw)
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      How about J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts?
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  • Profile picture of the author alamest
    I always try to use real name so in that way my brand awareness increases and people can recognize me easily..

    Every body have a pen name in their own life so what's wrong having a pen name in internet.. but I recommend to use real name..
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  • Profile picture of the author Ernie Mitchell
    I'm not an attorney but the Attorney General in Minnesota frowns on using assumed names that are not on record with the Atty Gen's office.

    Perhaps I'm going over the top but all of the assumed names I do business under are registered with the State AG's office.
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