US court rules Facebook stealing can constitute identity theft
A US court has determined that the use of another person’s Facebook identity may fall under identity theft laws. This legal determination, along with its accompanying penalties, can extend to false comments that are made under the stolen identity. In many cases, it can be possible for a stolen Facebook account access to be used to solicit assistance, in the form of money, from a Facebook user who is under the impression that the request comes from a trusted Facebook friend or relative.
Determination was made under California state law
A ruling handed down by a California Court of Appeal has found that a student was guilty of identity theft when a schoolmate’s email password was obtained and subsequently used to access that person’s Facebook account. At that time, sexual messages were posted to other Facebook user message boards while the student, referred to as “Rolando S”, masqueraded as the female victim. 
The provision under the California Penal Code stipulates that willfully obtaining ID information and subsequently using it for “unlawful purposes” without consent constitutes a crime.
It was shown in the hearing that Rolando S had acquired the victim’s email password through unsolicited text messaging. A record was then kept of the password with the intention of using it at a later time. This was the point that was made when establishing that personal identifying information had been obtained with the intention of unauthorized use. The court’s ruling (13-page / 39KB PDF), stated that the intention of Rolando S was to use the password in order to obtain entry into electronic accounts belonging to the victim.
It was further stated that although the text message was an unsolicited one, there was no evidence presented that would indicate that Rolando S was forced to memorize the password or store it for later use. It was noted that Rolando S admitted to using the password to gain access to the victim’s Facebook account.
It was determined that the use of the password caused harm to the victim
The Court ruled that the information that had been obtained and used constitutes an unlawful act, since the posted messages that were placed in the victim’s name defamed her.
It was therefore determined by the Court that the vulgar comments and sexually explicit messages were posted in the girl’s name in such a manner as to expose the victim to ridicule, hatred and contempt. Additionally, it was ruled that Rolando S. had sent illegal messages that involved the victim.
In California, it is considered a misdemeanor to use obscene language to contact or make reference to another person through an electronic device. This includes references made on the Internet in which the initial communication was through an electronic medium.
The argument that was presented by Rolando S was that the messages were merely intended as a “joke”. It was also requested that the Court overturn a previous juvenile court ruling. That particular ruling had ordered Rolando S to serve time in a juvenile detention center program for a period of 90 days to one year. He was also placed on probation.
As mentioned earlier, it’s possible to receive a bogus request for money to be sent to a predetermined location for any number of reasons. For example, the identity thief may pose as a relative who is currently traveling abroad and has had money “stolen” from them. In any case, you should always verify any requests that come to you by way of Facebook, email or any other form of communication.
1. Above the Law, Don’t Mess With Your Friend’s Facebook; It Might Be a Felony, Christopher Danzig, August 4, 2011, http://abovethelaw.com/tag/in-re-rolando-s/