Scammers stealing from family, friends after hacking your Facebook account; How to protect yourself

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Brevard County woman told WFTV her Facebook page was hijacked, and whoever took over the account is using it to scam others.

Cyndi Gilbert has been on Facebook for years. She likes capturing life’s precious and fun moments to share them with friends online. She believed Facebook was the perfect platform to do that.

“They send invitations to parties; I can see pictures of my kids and my grandchildren,” Gilbert told Action 9 Consumer Investigator Jeff Deal.

But earlier this year, somehow, her page got hacked. Someone took over the account and then locked her out. It’s been a frustrating situation.

“They have access to all my family, all my family pictures,” Gilbert said. “I can’t get those back.”

But what happened next was something she never expected. She learned whoever took over her account was advertising adorable yorkie puppies for sale. It turns out it was part of a popular online pet scam. Victims will send hundreds of dollars for puppies that never get delivered. It’s something the Better Business Bureau has been tracking since 2017. It found consumers have lost millions of dollars.

Eva Velasquez, President of Identity Theft Resource Center, said her agency is still seeing it often.

“We’ve seen social media account takeover just explode in the last two years,” she said.

She believes the bottom line intent for the hackers is to use the trust of others to steal money and in her experience, it’s difficult to get the large social media companies to do anything about it.

Velasquez said, “We’ve seen very, very limited success for people actually regaining control of their account or having it shut down.”

Gilbert and her friends reported it to Facebook, but the company responded that “it isn’t pretending to be you and doesn’t go against our Community Standards.”

She’s now reported it to the FBI, the Indian Harbour Beach Police Department and turned to WFTV to help bring attention to this issue.

And even though Gilbert started a new page and messaged her friends about what happened, she’s still received angry phone calls from people who believed she took their money and didn’t deliver the puppies. She called it a frightening experience.

“These people know where I live and they were coming after me for the money or their puppies,” she said.

Since then, whoever took over her account has posted she’s moving and offered all kinds of household items for sale as part of another scam. She’s still hoping Facebook will help her recover the account or at the very least shut it down before anyone else gets taken.

She added, “And that’s what bothers me the most because they’re stealing from other people using my name and my reputation.”

So far, Facebook hasn’t responded to WFTV about her situation.

To protect yourself, it’s best to use the multi-factor authentication on social media accounts, have a strong password, and don’t ever share your account credentials with anyone.

If you have an issue with identity theft, the Identity Theft Resource Center may be able to help guide you through the process.

(WATCH BELOW: Charities discovering the hard way how Facebook changed its donation process)

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.