Melissa D. Brandon, a 26-year-old Saskatoon woman, has pled guilty to impersonating Brittany Bjerland, Miss Saskatchewan, via a fake Facebook profile in order to con men out of money. Between June 2011 and January 2012, Brandon operated the page using pictures of Bjerland and telling men that she met online that she had a family member dying of cancer and needed financial help. (The judge in the case, Albert Lavoie, compared it to the recent fake girlfriend scandal of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o; the cases do bear more than a passing resemblance to each other.)
Brandon won’t receive any jail time for her crime; the men who gave her money did not wish to press charges, and Brandon paid them back. However, Lavoie sentenced her to 40 hours of community service and prohibited her from using the Internet and social media for six months.
“We are taking bullying to new heights and I label (Brandon) as an absolute bully because that’s what the ultimate result of her behavior was. She emotionally destroyed another young female,” Lavoie said. “I can’t solve that here today, but it is one of the challenges the courts are going to have to face, how we are going to deal with this.”
The legal system has increasingly had to face Facebook-related criminal cases. The frequency of fraud on social media sites doesn’t figure to decrease anytime soon, so laws must adjust accordingly to deal with these decidedly 21st century crimes.
Fake Facebook profiles are nothing new on the platform: in fact, we have a blog post dedicated specifically to that topic:
PRIVATE WiFi® is a Personal VPN that encrypts everything you send and receive. Don’t access Facebook from a public WiFi hotspot without it.
DoNotTrackMe protects your privacy by blocking online tracking. Abine – Online Privacy Starts Here.
BitDefender Safego is a Facebook application you can install that will scan your News Feed and help keep you safe from scams on Facebook.