Facebook hacks on the rise: Protect your accounts

Using strong passwords could help protect accounts

Dec. 20, 2022

A digital scrapbook. A place to do business. A way to connect with friends, family, and others. These are just a few 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 in the last 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 — regarding Meta, many of which concern the hacking of personal, business, or group pages. Many of these complaints were not made by Iowans, but the AG’s office referred them when appropriate.

“Our investigators work with Facebook to help Iowans and restore their accounts,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “Meta must do much more to protect consumers and respond quickly to problems. We also encourage consumers to take additional steps to secure their accounts, or perhaps 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, for which she would run ads promoting her music and work as a producer.

In early April 2022, that ended abruptly when Genevieve’s personal account was hacked. The criminals posted explicit materials to the page and Meta disabled the account. As a result, Genevieve was locked out of managing her business accounts.

She followed Meta’s advice to reenable her accounts, which noted it would take up to 48 hours to do so. But 30 days later, she was still unable to access her accounts. She estimated that she lost thousands of dollars in revenue to her business because of the company’s inaction.

“I have been desperately trying to reach Facebook and Instagram while ads continue to run and charge to my bank account against my will,” she explained in the complaint from May 2022. “This entire situation has been incredibly debilitating to my business as I conduct the majority of my sales and bookings through my social media channels. Since I was hacked, my income was drastically impacted and has caused an enormous amount of stress on both myself and my businesses.”

After contacting the AG’s office, Genevieve was put in touch with Consumer Protection Division Investigator Al Perales, who reached out to Meta on her behalf. Working with a Community Operations member at Facebook, Perales was able to facilitate communication between the company and Genevieve.

Nearly two months after losing access to her accounts, and one month after contacting the AG’s office, Genevieve was able to reclaim her pages.

“I do want to reiterate once more 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 performances that have forever shaped my career,” Genevieve told Perales in an email after regaining access to her accounts. “THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!”

In another case, the owner of an in-home cheesecake bakery lost access to her Facebook account, bringing her bustling business to a halt right before the holiday season. The owner reached out to the Attorney General’s office and investigators were able to connect her to help at Meta and Facebook. As of Dec. 4, her account was reactivated, and she was taking new orders.

Because of complaints to the Iowa AG and other AG offices, Meta released a compromised account resource guide for users who have experienced a hacking. The resource includes steps to recover and protect accounts. (INCLUDE NEW FILE)

To protect your Facebook and Instagram accounts, Meta provides the following suggestions:

  • Create strong, unique passwords. Do not use the same password for other accounts or apps.
  • Do not share your password with anyone.
  • Manage who can see your profile. Changing privacy settings, to only friends or friends of friends, limits who can interact with your account.
  • Remove personal profile from search engine results.
  • Enable two-factor authentication.
  • Activate and manage alerts. Make sure login and approvals are activated so you are alerted when someone tries to access your account.
  • Assign roles to those who manage your Page.

Additionally, Facebook users 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 AG’s office suggests:

  • Following Meta’s tips to recover your account, found here.
  • Reporting inappropriate or suspicious activity, go to Facebook’s Help Center here. 
  • Reporting the activity to the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Filing a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General’s office Consumer Protection Division. To file a complaint, go here or call 515-281-5926 (in Des Moines area) or 888-777-4590 (outside the metro area).