CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Annie Beth Donahue has a few businesses, including one that involves marketing and other product management, so she relies on social media a lot for that.
She has a Facebook account and uses the Ads Manager page, so she can place ads on Facebook.
She pays for them using PayPal.
One day she couldn’t get into her Facebook account, she said.
"I started getting notifications from PayPal that I had charges -- couple hundred dollars here, couple hundred dollars there," she said.
She told Action 9's Jason Stoogenke the charges added up to about $2,000.
Donahue said PayPal told her someone had hacked her Facebook account.
"It was a wake-up call that that can happen at any time," she told Stoogenke.
PayPal gave her her money back almost immediately, and Facebook blocked her account, she said.
"They did tell me that my account had violated community standards and that I had posted inappropriate content through the ads,” Donahue said. “But what really happened was I was hacked, and a hacker took out ads that were inappropriate."
She said she doesn't know specifically what ads Facebook was referring to.
Following that, Donahue went on Twitter to vent her frustrations.
A national tech writer saw her tweets and wrote about her case.
Donahue told Stoogenke it took about one month for Facebook to reactivate her account, which was a strain on her and her business.
"I can't do my job if I'm not on social media channels," she said.
There are stories online similar to what happened to Donahue.
One person wrote, "I feel so embarrassed. My Facebook ad account was hijacked."
Another user said, "It’s your worst online nightmare. Someone with bad intentions getting into your accounts."
Bryan Haskins is a lawyer and real estate agent in Charleston, South Carolina.
He said he relies on Ads Manager and told Stoogenke he found himself locked out of Facebook, too.
The reason for that was not a hacker, but, as with Donahue, he said Facebook didn't give his account back easily.
"I just kept trying to do what they told me to do, which was to reenter the new password and then try to log in,” Haskins said. “So that’s what I did for, I’d say, probably three or four times a day for the almost week that I was locked out and, finally, it just happened to work."
If your account is hacked, there's not much you can do to get your account back except follow Facebook's steps.
Stoogenke has contacted Facebook and is waiting on a response.
To avoid Facebook hacking:
- Use strong passwords
- Don't give more people admin control than you have to
- Go to your security settings on Facebook and make sure the login alerts are on, so you know if someone logs in from a device you haven't used
- Put monetary limits on your ads account so at least a hacker can't spend too much of your money
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