A digital scrapbook. A place to do business. A way to connect with friends, family and others. These are just some of the things that Meta’s Facebook represents to its many users. But all of that can disappear in an instant if a hacker gains access to your account.
Gone are the hundreds of photos you shared, the messages you received, and the business opportunities and connections you made. That’s the story for dozens of Iowans over the past year.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has seen four times the number of consumer complaints — from 25 in 2021 to 113 through December 2022 — about Meta, many of which involve the hacking of personal, business or group sites. Many of these complaints were not made by Iowans, but the attorney general’s office referred them when appropriate.
“Our investigators are working with Facebook to help Iowans and recover their accounts. Meta must do much more to protect consumers and respond quickly to issues. We also encourage consumers to take additional steps to secure their accounts, or face a future without their online presence.
Genevieve Salamone Walczyk of West Des Moines used Facebook to share her work as a musician. The violinist used her personal Facebook account to manage her four business pages, on which she would advertise her music and work as a producer.
At the beginning of April, it came to an abrupt end when Genevieve’s personal account was hacked. The criminals posted explicit material on the page and Meta disabled the account. As a result, Salamone Walczyk was banned from managing his business accounts.
She followed Meta’s advice to reactivate her accounts, which noted that it would take up to 48 hours to do so. But 30 days later, she still couldn’t access her accounts. She estimated that she lost thousands of dollars in revenue to her business due to the company’s inaction.
“I have been desperately trying to reach Facebook and Instagram while ads continue to run and debit my bank account against my will,” she explained in the complaint. “This whole situation has been incredibly devastating to my business as I do the majority of my sales and orders through social media channels. Since being hacked, my income has been drastically affected and has caused a huge amount of stress on both myself and my businesses. »
After contacting the state attorney general’s office, Salamone Walczyk was put in touch with Consumer Protection Division investigator Al Perales, who contacted Meta on her behalf. By working with a community operations member at Facebook, Perales was able to facilitate communication between the company and Salamone Walczyk.
Nearly two months after losing access to her accounts, and a month after contacting the Attorney General’s office, Salamone Walczyk was able to reclaim her pages.
“I want to reiterate once again how grateful I am for your help. It was thanks to you that I was able to retrieve my business accounts, which in turn led to some incredible opportunities and accomplishments that have forever shaped my career,” Salamone Walczyk told Perales in an email after accessing her accounts again. “THANK YOU!!!”
In another case, the owner of a home cheesecake bakery lost access to her Facebook account, bringing her busy business to a halt just before the holidays. The owner contacted the attorney general’s office and investigators were able to connect her to help on Meta and Facebook. As of December 4th, her account was reactivated and she was accepting new orders.
Due to complaints to the Iowa Attorney General and other law offices, Meta released a compromised account resource guide for users who have experienced hacking. The resource includes steps to restore and protect accounts.
To protect your Facebook and Instagram accounts, Meta offers the following suggestions:
- Create strong, unique passwords. Don’t use the same password for other accounts or apps.
- Do not share your password with anyone.
- Manage who can see your profile. Changing your privacy settings, to friends only or friends of friends, limits who can interact with your account.
- Remove personal profile from search engine results.
- Enable two-factor authentication.
- Enable and manage notifications. Make sure login and approvals are enabled so you’ll be notified when someone tries to access your account.
- Assign roles to those who manage your page.
Additionally, Facebook users who are concerned about losing access to their online information, including photos and other activity, can download your data. Facebook provides directions here.
If you believe your Facebook account has been hacked, the attorney general’s office suggests:
- Follow Meta’s tips to recover your account.
- Reporting inappropriate or suspicious activity, go to Facebook’s Help Center.
- Reporting the activity to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Submits a complaint to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division. To file a complaint, visit iowaattorneygeneral.gov or call 888-777-4590.
Tom Miller is the Attorney General of Iowa. He can be reached at [email protected]