When Tiffany White had her Facebook accounts hacked and couldn’t log in, she lost a lot. The Seattle-area entrepreneur has spent at least $10,000 advertising her business page, GC Jewelry Collection, which had nearly 53,000 subscribers. His personal page included photos of his 11-year-old daughter and her sister, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest three years ago at the age of 29.
White spent the next two months using Meta’s automated processes to restore an account and create reports. She sent numerous emails to a customer service line – there was no phone number to call – but nothing worked.
“You are stealing my money and now my memories,” White wrote in an email to Meta.
Last week, after GeekWire emailed Meta’s PR line about White’s struggles with our reporting for this story, White finally got his accounts back.
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 support service number that is close to zero,” The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
“They’re a huge company,” White said. “They know we all rely on them for so many different things. But they really dropped 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 email from Facebook. It turned out to be a phishing scheme.
Prior to being hacked, most of what White posted on her business page included photographs of rings and necklaces she had made, along with links to her. Etsy shop, an online marketplace where she sold her products.
While she was on lockdown, whoever took over the page was busy posting “spam” content to her 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 appeared that messages were being published every day, every three hours.
Meta said that using his automated process is the first step users can take to restore a lost account. This may 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 that fails, users can try emailing a customer service line, with no phone number available to call.
“We know losing access to your account can be a painful experience,” a Meta spokesperson said in an email to GeekWire. “We have sophisticated measures in place to stop bad actors before they gain access to accounts, as well as measures to help people recover their accounts. We work hard to keep our community safe, with dedicated teams and technology to detect and block malicious activitybut we know that no system is perfect.
Users desperate to take matters into their own hands may be lured by third-party “computer quacks,” like The Wall Street Journal refers to them. White said she met many of these so-called “hackers” who offered to help her access her account for a $150 fee. She said she refused their services.
Some users desperate to regain access to their accounts are yelling their pleas, going to unusual lengths for someone who can help them to take notice.
Reddit users, for example, have speculated that buying an Oculus The VR headset can at least put you in touch with Meta because Oculus has a dedicated customer service line. And, in a widely circulated podcast clip, an adult artist even claimed to have slept with Meta employees – on three separate occasions – in order to unblock his Instagram account.
Members of the media also intervened. Chicago I Team broadcast the message of two small businesses in the area who had their accounts hacked, helping entrepreneurs recover their accounts.
In an email to Meta, White made clear his intentions to leverage media coverage as a tool to get the company to respond to him.
“Maybe when I go to local news to explain what happened to me, then you will respond,” she wrote.