Consumer First Alert gets answers for woman whose Facebook was hacked

Updated: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Consumer First Alert has helped a woman whose Facebook page was hacked find answers.

In July, we shared stories of frustrated Facebook users who told us their accounts had been hacked and they weren’t able to get in contact with Facebook. We talked with consumer advocates, cyber security experts, and victims.

Pamela May of Fond du Lac came to Consumer First Alert looking for answers when her headband business page was taken over by hackers who scammed her customers. She was frustrated because there was no good way to contact Facebook.

The hacker changed her email address and locked her out of her page. She says her customers made orders for her headbands but never got the merchandise.

One of Pamela’s followers messaged the hacker.

“I found out you’re a scammer. You’re stealing,” said the follower.

The hacker replied, “Yes, I do that for a living.”

Eva Velasquez is president and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center. “It’s very lucrative and unfortunately, it’s relatively easy for the thieves to take over these accounts,” Velasquez says.

Facebook directs users to the online Help Center for hacking. Pamela followed the directions to report it.

“Sent so many emails to Facebook with no success,” Pamela said.

Pamela wished she could talk to an actual person. However, Facebook User Operations says it doesn’t offer phone support.

Pamela searched for help and called us at Consumer First Alert.

“You told me to reach out the DATCP, that is the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and that was the ticket,” Pamela says.

Pamela called Wisconsin’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-422-7128.

“They were the ones that helped me get the page shut down,” Pamela says.

“It’s staffed all day long, five days a week,” says Lara Sutherlin, Division Administrator for DATCP. “They’ve heard all kinds of stories. They can provide you resources. They can get you where you need to go. If we aren’t the resource they can talk you through the processes, so I really encourage people to call when they have concerns, and I’m sure someone on our side can help out.”

In 2021, the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline received more than 14,500 calls. They received an average of 1,215 calls each month about issues from identity theft to price gouging.

“What DATCP can offer is helping you communicate with a company, helping you navigate that process,” says Sutherlin. “And it sounds like that happened in this instance. Absolutely, you should first use the protocols that are set up to help, but if you’re running into a problem, we are there to help and we can try to work with the company to see if we can resolve your issues.”

Consumer Protection opened a line of communication with Facebook to verify that Pamela May’s account was hacked. It took more than two months.

Pamela regained access to her page, which was then deleted.

“I don’t really think it’s Facebook’s fault, however, I think Facebook should have a better system to get a hold of them if something like this happens,” May says.

Pamela is taking care to protect her new Facebook page with a strong, unique password she uses exclusively for Facebook.

“I would have never thought to reach out to DATCP, and you’re the one that advised me to do that, and that’s what i did and it worked. so thank you,” said May.

So how do you prevent falling vicitm to hackers? Molly Vollrath, a security analyst at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, gave us some tips.

“What criminals will do is send out a phishing email pretending to be Facebook saying, ‘Hey validate your account or update your settings and log in here.’ You’ll click a link and see a legitimate looking Facebook page that will ask you to enter your user name and password. So it’s that simple for them to take it from you because you’re giving it to them in that phishing,” Vollrath says.

Vollrath says it is key to lock down your Facebook Security settings.

“What we’re really recommending is a password that’s 14 characters in length,” says Vollrath. “And we say to get away from a password and get into a pass phrase.”

Pad your password by adding extra symbols and numbers between the letters of your pass phrase.

Add another layer of security with two-factor authentication.

“This is something we say to all of our users. If you’re storing your personal information anywhere online it should be protected by the second factor or you shouldn’t be using the website at this point, Vollrath says.

Users can get a text code to their phone.

Vollrath recommends using an authentication app. Every time you log into Facebook it will send a prompt from your phone to log in.

“All these authentication apps are free to download from the App Store to your phone. Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator are great free ones to use,” Vollrath says.

Set up authorized devices you use for Facebook. That includes your personal phone or computer.

“Then Facebook can alert you if an unauthorized device is trying to log in as you and that’s another alerting red flag for you,” Vollrath says.

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