Hacks or takeovers of social media accounts have increased significantly since 2020, and NBC 5 Responds has found a key differentiator between users who recover their accounts and those who do not.
Thieves are flocking to social media platforms more than ever, and if you’re not careful, you could be kicked out of your account.
Depending on what type of user you are online, it can make a difference as to whether you can recover your account.
NBC 5 Responds covered an increase in social media account takeovers over the past year, affecting thousands of users online.
And now, new numbers recently released are setting the trend.
In the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) “2021 Trends in Identity” report, the non-profit organization found a 1,044% increase in reports of social media account hacks by bad actors, between the years. 2020 and 2021.
The ITRC calls it an “emerging scam”, with identity thieves flocking to social media profiles, resulting in the highest number of personally identifiable information (PII) exposures from the accounts many use daily. .
The problem is compounded by the fact that many users said that once their account was hacked, they had no way to recover it.
Recently, two Facebook/Meta users in the Chicago area contacted NBC 5 Responds, desperate for help.
At first glance, the two users seemed to have a lot in common: their pages were recently hacked, robbing them of years of memories, photos and contact information for family and friends.
But after inquiring on their behalf, only one user was able to return to their account.
The different results can be attributed to two keywords: business account.
“I just never thought this would happen to me,” Koren Utley told NBC 5 Responds after her Facebook account was taken over by hackers in July.
Koren’s Facebook account served two purposes: to connect with her friends and family, but also for her life coaching business.
Koren said his repeated attempts to contact Facebook for help came to nothing.
After NBC 5 Responds got in touch with Facebook staff, Koren managed to get back into his account.
But our same attempts to help another user, public school teacher Tracy Aleckson, came to nothing.
“Why would anyone want to hack into a Facebook account? Aleckson asked. “I was so frustrated. You have this billion dollar company, and no way to contact them.
After NBC 5 Responds contacted Facebook for comment, the company helped Utley gain access to his hacked account, but did not help Aleckson.
The company did not respond to questions or requests for comment from NBC 5.
The reason the NBC 5 Responds investigation helped Utley, but had no effect for Aleckson, can be attributed to the fact that Utley had previously purchased Facebook ads for his life coaching business.
Tracy had not made any purchases on Facebook.
The realization that not all users are treated equally comes as no surprise to cybersecurity analysts, like TrustedSec’s Alex Hamerstone.
“It’s important for everyone to remember: if you’re not paying for something, you are absolutely the product.” Hamerstone said.
Hamerstone is not suggesting that we all buy ads, rather we need to understand the playing field, one that is getting riskier day by day.
Analysts say the most common way for hackers to gain control of accounts is through social engineering techniques, direct messages, or sending links you should never click.
Yet many users feel that social media companies play a role in protecting their identity.
“You shouldn’t need to have a business account to be protected by Facebook,” Utley said. Since recovering her account from the last hack, Utley said she has mostly stayed away from social media.
“I don’t post as much as I used to,” Utley said. “Honestly, I’ve lost the joy of sharing on Facebook to be honest with you.”
Protect your social media account against attacks
Most of the ways NBC found 5 to protect your social media accounts are preventative measures to take before this happens.
It’s all about your digital hygiene.
Strengthen your password
The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends using a strong, unique password, up to 12 characters or more.
“Don’t use a password you’ve used on other accounts,” Velasquez said. “It can be a passphrase or something you can easily remember.”
Additionally, setting up two-factor authentication for profile changes, like passwords, can alert you to an account invasion and keep hackers out.
Back up your photos and information
Another important point to consider is storing your information in multiple places.
Having photos and other information you might need saved somewhere other than your account can help in case something happens to your profile.
“Do a health check of your social media accounts,” Velasquez said. “Make sure you have no stored data, photos, contacts and items only [on your social media account] so that if the worst happens, you have backups.
For really meaningful photos, videos, and important information, it’s also recommended that you store these backups separately from your device.
“If you only have your photos stored on Facebook, get a USB drive, get a hard drive, store them somewhere else, so you have a copy if something happens to that account,” Velasquez recommends. . “It will certainly make it less traumatic if you are unable to recover the account.”
Are you eligible for “Facebook Protect”?
Some Facebook users are eligible for something called Facebook Protect, an enhanced security feature the company rolled out last March.
Facebook Protect adds more security to a user’s account, including two-factor authentication and additional staff checks for hacking threats.
This feature is not available to all users. The company’s website said it was “a security program for groups of people most likely to be targeted by malicious hackers, such as human rights defenders, journalists and government officials”.
It’s unclear if Facebook plans to roll out the feature more widely.
To learn more about Facebook Protect and whether you can use it, click here.
If your account is already hacked, what can you do?
Many Facebook users who contacted NBC 5 for help said their attempts to get help on Facebook after their accounts were hacked were unsuccessful.
This has also been noticed by cybersecurity experts.
“They don’t have dedicated customer service. You can’t actually talk to a person,” Velasquez said. “It’s good when things are going well. But when there is significant fraud or litigation, it creates a real problem.
Users are encouraged by the company to visit this webpage to attempt to recover their account.
If your profile is a business account or is used for your business, be sure to highlight this when contacting Facebook for assistance. This can speed up a response from Facebook’s side.
More useful information from Facebook can be found here.
Free Resources for Help
Experts also say users shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if this happens to them.
“We really want to encourage people not to be embarrassed or ashamed, not to think they should know or understand these things, and to get help if they need it,” Velasquez said. “It’s a really complicated space and not everyone can know everything about it.”
To learn more about the Identity Theft Resource Center, including how to access its many free services and advice, Click here or call 1-888-400-5530
Do you have a consumer complaint? Call 1-844-NBC-RESP or click here to let us know so we can help you.