When Tiffany White hacked into her Facebook accounts and couldn’t log in, she lost a lot. The Seattle-area entrepreneur spent at least $ 10,000 on advertising for her company page, GC Jewelry Collection, which had nearly 53,000 followers. Her personal page included photos of her 11-year-old daughter and her sister, who died unexpectedly three years ago of cardiac arrest at the age of 29.
White spent the next two months using Meta’s automated processes to restore an account and archive reports. He sent a lot of emails to a customer service line – there was no phone number to call – but it didn’t work.
“You are stealing my money and now my memories,” White wrote in an email to Meta.
Last week, after GeekWire emailed Meta’s press relations line about White’s struggles as part of our reporting for this story, White finally got his accounts back. However, he added that he is not yet an administrator of his corporate account of him.
His experience highlights the dangers of trying to reach customer service on giant social media platforms. “Facebook and Instagram serve nearly 3 billion users a day with a help desk approaching zero,” the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
“They are a great company,” White said. “They know we all rely on them for so many different things. But they’ve really lost the ball when it comes to customer service. “
White, who is also a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, was hacked in early April when she replied to what she thought was a legitimate Facebook email. It turned out to be a phishing scheme.
Before being hacked, most of what White posted on his company page included photographs of rings and necklaces he had made, accompanied by links to his Etsy shop, an online marketplace through which he sold his products.
While it was blocked, whoever took over the page was busy posting “spamming” content on its feed, White said. GC Jewelry Collection has become a hodgepodge of video posts with simple descriptions, showing men catching catfish or dental care animations. And it seemed like posts were being posted every day, every three hours.
Meta said using its automated process is the first step users can take to restore a lost account. This could include providing identification, such as an SMS code sent to a mobile number associated with the account or a photo of the user’s driver’s license. If that doesn’t work, the next step users can take is to file a report. If this fails, users can try to send an email to a customer service line, with no phone number available to call.
“We know that losing access to your account can be a distressing experience,” a spokesperson for Meta said in an email to GeekWire. “We have put in place sophisticated measures to stop attackers in their tracks before they gain access to accounts, as well as measures to help people recover their accounts. We are working hard to keep our community safe, with dedicated teams and technologies to detect and block malicious activity, but we know no system is perfect. “
Users desperately wishing to take matters into their own hands may be lured into third-party “IT quacks,” as the Wall Street Journal called them. White said she met several of these so-called “hackers” who offered to help her log into her account for a $ 150 fee. She said she declined their services.
Some users who are desperate to regain access to their accounts are shouting their pleas, going out of their way so that someone who can help notices.
Reddit users, for example, have speculated that purchasing an Oculus VR headset can at least put you in touch with Meta because Oculus has a dedicated customer support line. And, in a widely circulated podcast clip, one adult entertainer even claimed to have slept with Meta employees – on three separate occasions – to unblock your Instagram account.
Members of the media also intervened. The Chicago I-Team relayed the message of two small businesses in the region who have suffered a hacking attack on their accounts, helping entrepreneurs get their accounts back.
In an email to Meta, White made it clear his intentions to use media coverage as a tool to get the company to respond.
“Maybe when I go to the local news to explain what happened to me, you will answer then,” he wrote.