Facebook hijack victim shares experience to help other users recognize scam

·5 min read

May 25—After her Facebook account was "hijacked," a local woman is warning others to take hacks to social media accounts seriously.

"I'm not sure how it happened, but it's what's called [being] hijacked," said Pam Moore, who was the first executive director of Help In Crisis and is now retired.

While visiting friends on the East Coast, Moore first noticed an issue with her email. She hadn't received any new emails on her phone since April. Moore chalked this up to technical difficulties, since her email was working on her computer, for the most part.

"I have password books and they were all back here, so since I was in Virginia, I just didn't get on Facebook and didn't use my email because I was visiting friends. I didn't need to," she said.

When Moore landed in Tulsa, she was unable to log into Facebook. She decided to wait until she got home to try again.

"By the time we got home, got unpacked, and settled down, I looked at Facebook and tried again. It wouldn't take my password or any of my old passwords," said Moore.

Moore asked Facebook to email her a code to change her password, but never received it in her inbox. She tried this three or four times and never received a code.

On top of this, Moore had just set up a new computer, so her device was not being recognized by online sites. She tried to get help from her email provider, but they were unable to help for 24 hours. Moore eventually figured out what the scammers had done.

"So what they did is take my phone number and change the country code 1 to 9. They changed all my passwords and changed the name of my recovery email," she said. "So there's no way I could ever get that Facebook account back."

Moore soon noticed scam posts on her hijacked Facebook account, one offering a MacBook and another selling puppies for a $300 rehoming fee. Moore said several of her friends contacted her by phone about the puppies. One friend, when she found out it was a scam, felt comfortable enough to "mess" with the scammers.

"[The scammers] were wanting gift cards, of course, and they were wanting to come to her home and pick it up," she said.

Moore, who used to advise women on similar types of victimization, has a few takeaways from the experience she wants people to understand.

"Yes, hacking has been a part of our lives for so long we just yawn when we see it, but it's much more sophisticated now," she said. "They get a hold of more of your information much quicker, and then they have people hired [in the United States] to come to your home [and collect payment]. So it's real important not to give out any kind of information about where you are."

Moore said she still doesn't understand exactly what happened and will most likely not use social media anymore, which is "kind of a hard thing."

"Older people kind of use [social media] as a way to stay connected with their friends, know where the parties are, and [stay in touch with] their grandchildren. There's a lot of good things about Facebook, but it really is not safe," she said. "I would feel horrible if someone gave up some cash or money because of that scammer getting ahold of my account."

In many instances, scammers will try to target the person behind the computer screen, rather than the machine itself.

"Typically when it comes to security, the failure point is usually the person — the user, not the computer, because that's kind of how [the scammers] are going," said Jonathan Rader, owner and operator of Rader Computers, earlier this year. "You can still get viruses and stuff like that, but it's a lot easier to trick the user into giving them their stuff."

Moore has seen friends hijacked and convinced to hand over money to the scammers, even though they were familiar with technology.

"These are people who have all their marbles, who probably have a higher understanding of the internet than people who have not worked on computers for 10 years. I'm not going to tell you I'm a computer whiz. However, I've been using computers for business since 1995," she said.

Moore said there is no law enforcement help with these issues.

"I'm not saying they don't want to help you; there's just no law. They can't get people in India who take money from me. They don't have that kind of reach and they're not going to go after whatever little bit of money [the scammers] might get from me," she said.

When scammers impersonate a business — or in Moore's case, a person — to trick others into giving out personal information or money, that is considered "phishing." Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King has previously discussed this type of crime, which under the offense of fraud or obtaining money or merchandise by false pretense.

"The problem we run into is, very rarely is it someone locally doing that. It's a network of sorts where it may be someone from a different country performing those acts," said King.

The penalties for phishing can result in a year or more in prison if the perpetrator is convicted of a felony. The court would impose a restitution order if the victim lost money.

"I didn't give them any money, but they got everything else," said Moore. "And I lost my Facebook account."

Moore isn't "sentimental" about her lost account, but said she used it to help other people and as a community organizing tool.