It was in the afternoon of Friday March 5, 2021 when the nightmare strolled in casually like a minor irritant that will fizzle out in few days, if not in hours.
I was on my way to keep an appointment with my dentist when a call came through while on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. It turned out to be a call that signalled the beginning of a long, frustrating, distressing and hellish ordeal in the hands of evil souls whose business is the invasion of your social media spaces for all the malevolent intentions you can ever imagine.
The Satanic soul at the other end had impersonated an official of my children’s school, asking me to confirm my attendance of a Parent Teachers’ Association virtual meeting scheduled for the next day, with a request to click on the code sent to me to enable me access the meeting. I fell for the antic of the techie and my nightmare began.
It was less than 10 minutes thereafter that the first call came in to inform me that my Facebook page had been compromised by hackers and that phony stuff had been posted on my wall. A subsequent attempt to use my WhatsApp also failed as the grifters had similarly invaded my space on that social media platform as well.
What to do? Simple one: get an IT savvy professional to recover the accounts and get the scammers off the accounts.
Not exactly, as the turn of events has shown. The first step taken by the IT professional was to put his skills into play to recover the accounts. The efforts yielded prompt and positive result in respect of my WhatsApp platform.
But for the Facebook account, minutes yielded to hours and hours to second day, and it became clear that this is one ordeal that will not end in a flash. The task of recovering the account by the IT guy hit a blank wall when it was discovered that the children of hades that hacked into the account have succeeded in replacing my email address with their own.
Given the situation, only Facebook can retrieve this account from these con artists and then restore it to the actual owner. To Facebook, we took the case.
To request Facebook’s intervention, the following steps were taken:
In a series of correspondences to Facebook, the social media platform company was informed that the recent changes effected in the email and password of the account were fraudulent and should be duly removed.
Facebook responded and promptly took hold of the account and made it inaccessible to both the actual owner and the hacker. Unfortunately, after about two weeks, to my consternation and agony, the account was released, not to me, but to the swindlers.
Unfazed, we pressed on through other correspondences to Facebook, requesting it to take the hackers off the account. It was in the course of our efforts to reclaim the account that we found that the con artists now operate the account with another email address and obviously a new username. These discovery was also promptly communicated to Facebook, even though we aee yet to get a response up till now.
To put Facebook on its toes and to make it do the needful, we have also utilised the public space to bring this ordeal to Facebook and public attention.
The day after the hackers took over my Facebook account, we put the notice below to my contacts on WhatsApp platform:
To all my WhatsApp/Facebook Contacts:
This is to notify you on the violation of my Facebook space by some con artists who are hell bent on swindling my unsuspecting friends on the social media platform. The hacking occurred on Friday March 5, 2021. Their cheap antic is to present me as a fortunate beneficiary of a ridiculous finance scheme and now urging my friends to also take advantage of the said phantom scheme.
We have already lodged a formal complaint with Facebook and the issue is being looked into. While this is on, these desperate tricksters are getting more desperate in their bid to fleece unsuspecting potential victims. PLEASE IGNORE ALL MESSAGES PURPORTEDLY COMING FROM ME INVITING YOU TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY MONEY YIELDING SCHEME.
Such message could come through the Facebook space or may be directly addressed to you by the grifters.
Please ignore them while we work at getting Facebook authorities to retrieve the account from these petty scammers.
We did not stop at this, since the swindlers also did not relent in posting fraudulent materials on the hacked account.
Following the posting of another fraudulent material on the wall of the hacked account on March 31st, we devised another means to further bring the issue to the attention of Facebook and the public, with the notice below:
To all my Facebook Contacts:
Still on the issue of the violation of my Facebook space by some con artists who are hell bent on swindling my unsuspecting friends on the social media platform, please take note of the submission below:
You are kindly advised to unfriend this old account from your friends’ list. Picture of old account is attached to this message.
Refusal to unfriend this my old account leaves you vulnerable to the antics of the scammers.
While one expected that this notice and those before it will help to enable Facebook appreciate the seriousness of the situation, the organisation appears to have left everything in the hands of automated devices that just churn out responses fed into them years back.
For instance, for our March 31st notice to my Facebook and WhatsApp friends, this was all we got from the organisation:
Thanks for letting us know about something you think may go against our Community Standards.
Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. In this case, we received the profile you reported and found that it doesn’t go against our Community Standards.
Note: If you see something on someone’s profile that shouldn’t be on Facebook, be sure to report the specific content (ex: a photo or video), instead of the entire profile. This will help us review your report more accurately.
The Facebook Team
When the swindlers posted another bogus message on 9th April and we repeated the notice of March 31st above, Facebook also repeated its auto generated response which we got earlier, word for word.
Now, Facebook is dealing with human beings and not machines. A situation where all cases are treated same way and the same automated responses are given in different and varying circumstances cannot be the best that Facebook can offer its teeming clients. Facebook can and must do better.
Take this case as an example. Between Friday March 5 and afternoon of Sunday April 11 that I’m writing this, the hackers have posted at least six phony materials on the hacked wall. First on the day they did the hacking, then 6th March, 7th March, 31st March, 9th April and 10th April.
To some of these posts, a few of my friends have had cause to comment, stating that the account has been hacked.
If Facebook has a proactive and up and running Contents Analysis Unit and Customers Complaints Department, by now, it should have been able to come to the realisation that since someone complained about this particular account on March 5/6, only materials of dubious and doubtful financial transactions are regularly posted on its walls. When you juxtapose that with the informed commentaries and articles on contemporary issues that have graced that wall in the last five years, should that not raise suspicion? Should that not raise the antenna of the guys at Facebook that some swindlers are probably at work? Even if the account will not be immediately returned to the original owner, does that not call for circumspection, and taking a decision to hold back the account until all issues pertaining to it are verified and resolved. Can’t Facebook do better than this?
I call on Facebook to resolve this depressing issue. For every fraudulent post emblazoned on my picture, it is a poisoned arrow shot straight into the heart; into my soul. Indeed, in the last five weeks, Facebook and these hackers have their knees on my neck. I’m truly in pains. In distress. I need them to take their knees off my neck by putting an end to the embarrassing and depressing situation that these satanic souls have put me.
For every minute that Facebook remains indifferent to my ordeal, the organisation and the hackers have their knees on my neck.
In the event that Facebook continues to remain indifferent to this anomaly, we will certainly not hesitate to explore other avenues to resolve this. Certainly, there are consequences for such official aloofness in high places.
Adedoyin, Journalist, Communication Specialist, wrote in from Ikeja, Lagos.