social media

Simi Valley woman says scammers hijacked her Facebook account, trying to dupe friends out of money

Facebook is under fire for account takeovers, but there may not be much hope for users. 

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Shauna Murphy’s Facebook page is full of posts about getting rich quick by investing in crypto.

“My daughter called me, and she said, ‘Mom, are you doing crypto?’ And I said, ‘No, of course not!’” she said.

Scammers had taken over Ms. Murphy’s account and locked her out. Posing as Ms. Murphy, they hoped her friends and followers would hand over money. 

“In the beginning, it was kinda comical. I just thought no one's going to believe this,” said her husband Steve Murphy. 

But people did believe it. The couple said friends approached them about their crypto success. 

“I was mostly concerned about friends or anyone else they may reach out to and con out of money. The thought of that -- I just couldn’t sleep,” said Ms. Murphy.

Ms. Murphy said she reached out to Facebook repeatedly and asked them to return the account back to her or simply delete it. But she said Facebook ignored her requests.

“It’s super frustrating. I’m very frustrated. I feel like they don’t care about us. Clearly they don’t care,” said Ms. Murphy.

Facebook didn’t respond to the I-Team’s emails, either. 

And Ms. Murphy is not alone. California’s attorney general Rob Bonta, along with the attorneys general in 39 states, recently sent a letter to Meta, Facebook’s parent company, calling on it to take “immediate action” against account takeovers. They said users are complaining to them, too, and it’s causing a “substantial drain” on their resources.

Michael Epstein, a media and first amendment law professor at Southwestern Law School, doesn’t think any lawyer can get very far on this issue. 

“Meta has stacked the deck in its favor, in its Terms of Service,” he said.

Epstein said Facebook makes it difficult to sue them. According to its Terms of Service, lawsuits must be filed in Northern California, and the company limits its liability to just $100.

On top of that, Epstein said it’s hard to prove Facebook and Meta are the bad guys – it’s the scammers who are. And often users play a role, too. 

“I don’t believe this is a situation caused by Meta. And I do think there’s a responsibility factor that’s in play here for the people who don’t protect their accounts sufficiently,” he said.

Epstein said users often use simple passwords that make it easy for scammers to hack their accounts. 

He said Ms. Murphy’s best bet is to surrender her account to the scammers, warn her friends and open a new account. 

But she’s decided to call it quits altogether. 

“I feel, because my privacy has been breached, that I'm not comfortable on that platform anymore. I just can’t trust them,” she said.

Here are other tips for creating a password:

  • Use a combination of upper and lower case letters.
  • Use numbers and symbols, too.
  • Avoid words and numbers that are easy to guess, like your name and birth date. 
  • Never repeat passwords.
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