I woke up Monday morning to several messages from friends: “I think your Facebook has been hacked.”
Bleary-eyed, I reached for my glasses and pulled up my account on my phone. Heath Ledger’s Joker stared back at me as my profile photo. The cover photo was a man smoking with a swastika symbol in the bottom left-hand corner.
My name was replaced with a string of Arabic words. The top post was a message in Arabic that roughly translates to, “I’m not a show-off nor arrogant, I’m only good at putting borders for those who don’t know them.”
I yelled out to my boyfriend in the living room that my account was hacked, and he responded with, “I know.” We immediately went to work trying to regain access. I wasn’t panicked, and actually, felt silly that I let it happen. I even laughed that my boyfriend is now in a relationship with the Joker.
Facebook, that’s not funny
Overnight, messages from Facebook written in Arabic were sent to my personal email account:
- The first message indicated that my password was reset using an old Yahoo email address that I had used to open my Facebook account in 2004 and had since been deleted.
- Then, a new phone number based out of Jordan was added to my account.
- Next, my phone number was removed from the account.
- After that, my email address was removed from the account.
- Finally, the Yahoo address was added to the account.
On Monday morning, a message from Facebook came to my email addressed to the hacker, “Jasmine,” about someone trying to access the account with a request to answer some questions and change the password.
Facebook Help Center of death
I went to the Facebook Help Center and visited the topic “Hacked Accounts,” going through the following path:
- “I think my account was hacked or someone is using it without my permission.”
- “Get started”
- “Someone else gained access to my account”
- “No, I can’t log in”
- “No, I don’t have access to the phone number or email address on the account”
I was prompted to enter my email or phone number. The Joker’s photo popped up, and I chose it as my account. The code was sent to the Yahoo address and my current email address.
Nothing came to my personal email address, so I denoted my work address as a recovery email and started receiving reset codes. None of the codes worked.
Eventually, the codes had been entered too many times, and I was told to try again later. It appeared the hacker/bot was getting to the codes before I could.
There’s no one to talk to at Facebook
I figured I would call customer support and get a real person. Except, Facebook has no customer-support phone number, email or live chat. The Help Center is the only option.
I tried to visit facebook.com/hacked to report that my account was compromised and was again taken to the page to receive reset codes. I tried the “Forgot account?” link on the Facebook homepage and was taken to a page asking for a recovery email address.
I first entered my work email. On the next page, I was asked for my name, phone number and a photo of my driver’s license. After submitting, a message popped up that Facebook would reach out shortly.
I waited 10 minutes.
Then 20 minutes. Thirty minutes went by. Finally, an hour.
I refreshed my email account over and over and checked the spam and social folders. No response. I was frantic. I began filling out the form about every 20 minutes, interchanging between my work and personal emails and later created a new Gmail account.
No response. Locked out from Facebook
I tweeted to Facebook. I even replied to one of the original messages from Facebook. Nothing. Throughout the day, I only received two messages, each one telling Jasmine that her problem had been resolved.
Soon enough, the hacker’s email address was changed, and my work email disappeared from the account. I was completely locked out.
I tried to go through the whole process again and kept receiving a message that without access to the current email, Facebook couldn’t authenticate me as the account holder.
Hey Facebook, that makes no sense.
Breaking up with Facebook after 14 years
It dawned on me just how much I used Facebook daily, aside from contacting and keeping up with friends and family. As an entertainment reporter, I visit Facebook to contact sources, get updates on soon-to-open restaurants, bars and breweries, find news stories, seek out interesting events, and manage two pages for journalism groups.
In all honesty, Facebook was a major part of my life.
My boyfriend and I scoured the Facebook Help message boards, Reddit threads, articles and videos for information. On Facebook Help, several users asked about similar situations. In response, someone would post a link to the “Hacked Accounts” page, and many people commented that it didn’t work. But no one’s concerns were further addressed.
What happens now?
I found an article from CNBC written in December 2017 about two people who had very similar experiences, “What happens when your Facebook page is hijacked by a stranger.” The article noted that there are videos on the Internet in both English and Arabic that show how to hack Facebook accounts.
One user lost complete access to his account, and the page is still up with no resolution after months. Another’s personal and business pages were hacked. Eventually, Facebook took them down, but not before she lost all of her company’s followers.
Vulnerable on Facebook: My whole life is there
By the evening, I started to lose hope. I was tired of filling out the same forms over and over, and going around in circles.
I thought about how my profile contains 14 years of photos, posts and memories that a stranger or bot can now access. My private conversations on Messenger are vulnerable. I began sobbing, feeling as if a door to my personal life had been opened, and I had no idea how to shut it.
I texted friends and family to please report my page to Facebook. Many of them experienced a run-around too, with just a path to the “Hacked Accounts” page. I was flabbergasted by how unhelpful Facebook’s Help Center is in dealing with compromised accounts.
I assumed the process would be similar to any other matter of personal security: suspending a lost phone or sending a new credit card after suspicious charges appear. Maybe I’m naïve because Facebook is a free and voluntary service, but I hoped there would be better security protocols for the world’s largest social media site.
What I should have done to protect myself
Most of all, I feel stupid.
I should have safeguarded my account better. I wish I had utilized two-factor authentication on my account. I wish I had initiated the “Trusted Contacts” feature on Facebook, which allows you to choose three to five friends who can vouch for you if there is an issue with your account. I honestly didn’t even know about those options until now, and that’s my fault. I figured a decent password was good enough, and I’ve been guilty of using the same password more than once.
But I’m not giving up. If I don’t get my Facebook account back, I’ll probably have to start over with a new one. Either way, I’ll definitely secure my account with every protection available. I suggest everyone do the same.
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