The Nigerian/Australian/Alabamian* scammer/hacker must have hit the jackpot when they found the Balboa community on Facebook -a close-knit group of kind individuals with years of positive interactions that built trust and mutual respect. Just the kind of people who didn’t think twice about helping a friend, who turned out to be someone fraudulently accessing their friend’s account to gain access to their account so that the cycle could continue indefinitely. Please note that I would never send you a link to a business/investment scheme and I would never ask you for $200 via Messenger, as all my financial requests are done in public and usually involve supporting a non-profit, the arts, and/or a transaction in exchange for music/swag.
It might not have been as bad if it hadn’t occurred on a Monday morning. I subsequently had a busy day at work and didn’t get back to thinking about Facebook until around 8:00 p.m. that night. By that time, the hacker had changed my email, telephone number, and password. Facebook sent me emails after these changes with links to “secure your account,” but the hacker had already changed all information that I would use to secure my account, so this was useless. I spiraled, going through the steps on the Facebook Help Center page for Hacked and Fake Accounts over and over – sometimes it would be a Sysiphian loop going nowhere and sometimes it would lead me to a step that I thought would allow me access, only to deny the access because [insert one of several error messages].
I submitted a copy of my drivers license to Facebook twice in an attempt to recover my account. I attempted to re-set my password upon prompts from this submission and both times I received an error message that I had “entered too many codes.”
I had a brief moment of hope when I was taken through a loop that allowed me to add a second email to my account to receive recovery codes. The main issue with this is that, every time I requested a code, the hacker would also receive the email and be notified of my attempts to recover my account. None of the codes Facebook sent me worked – Facebook sent me five recovery codes via email and, every time I would enter a code, an error message would tell me I had an incorrect code.
In less than 24 hours, the hacker figured out what I was doing and removed the second email from my Facebook account. I received an email asking if I had removed the email from my account and was provided the same link to “secure your account,” which, again, asked for the hacker’s password and would only send recovery links to the hacker’s phone and email.
Meanwhile, I received text messages every 15 minutes from friends asking if my account is hacked or letting me know that they received a strange message from me on Facebook. This continued for four days. This was incredibly stressful, being constantly reminded that a stranger was in my personal virtual space on Facebook, impersonating me and taking advantage of the trust I built with my friends and the goodwill I built with my businesses and my various positions in the swing dance community.
Other things I did to try to get Facebook’s attention and/or recover my account:
- Filed a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General’s office – I received a generic email response acknowledging the receipt of my complaint. “We’ll review your complaint and work with you and the business to try to reach a resolution of your dispute.” It’s been two weeks, nothing more has happened.
- Filed a complaint with the California Attorney General’s office – no email confirmation from this, but I did print out the screen I was told to print that confirmed my submission. No word from them, either.
- Ranted on Twitter @laurawindley – this has worked in the past with other businesses who have blown me off for months, but Facebook is the honey badger of customer service, even when threatened with a small claims action and me personally showing up on their doorstep in California. It also had the unwanted side-effect of attracting bots and other scammers who claimed they could recover my account for me.
- Ranted on Instagram @mintjulepjazzband – I have a more supportive community on IG than Twitter, so this was more for catharsis and to let my friends know I’m still alive, but had the same unwanted scammers/hackers/bots messaging me about account recovery.
- Filed a copyright infringement claim with Facebook – this was denied. Hacker stole my IP and used it to defraud my friends out of money, but whatever, I get it.
- Filed a trademark infringement claim with Facebook – I felt like I had a much more compelling argument here: “A hacker who has cut off access to my business Facebook account is using my trademark and its associated goodwill to ask for money from fans of the band. I am attaching photos of message I received, indicating that people received requests for money from the hacker. Several messages are sent by an intermediary/personal acquaintance because I have no other connection to them other than my business with the associated trademark. Please see attachments for screen shots of messages. Prior to the hacker, I had been asking publicly on the band website, Facebook page, and in the Facebook event for advance tips/donations for the Mint Julep Jazz Band sponsored event, the Orchard Park Jazz Picnic, so the timing of the hacker’s requests for money while posing as me/my band could seem legitimate. I have been using Mint Julep Jazz Band as a trademark for my band since 2011. The band has released 3 studio albums, our music has been aired on Sesame Street (the Jon Hamm episode), we’ve performed at Lincoln Center, and last month the band had 22,000 listeners on Spotify. Please get this guy out of my account so I can continue to run my business.” Facebook disagreed. The only resolution they offered was to terminate the Mint Julep Jazz Band Facebook page.
- A friend who was also hacked tried the two phone numbers listed online for Facebook, both of which are recordings that direct you to the Facebook Help Center.
- When friends texted me about being messaged by the hacker, I asked them to report my account as hacked. Facebook subsequently directed my friends to share the Facebook Help Center page with me.
I know that most people use Facebook casually or to share photos of their kids, but I use Facebook primarily for business and both disseminating and receiving information about the swing dance community, which is tied to both my personal joy and my business. Facebook is the primary means of communication for the swing dance community. Business metrics are important – people care about how many fans/likes you have, how many people you engage with on social media, and Facebook is a critical component.
Here’s what I need to be communicating and have been denied the ability to reach the broadest audience through (unfortunately) the most effective means of communication with friends and fans:
- The Empower Foundation fundraiser – “The mission of the Empower Dance Foundation is to provide access to professional dance classes for all children and youth ages 2-18. Empower seeks to eliminate the barriers of economic inequality, racism and representation for young people.” I’m excited to be serving on The Empower Foundation’s Board and help in their fundraising endeavors. This is a chance to promote beauty, creativity, diversity, and opportunity – we are not powerless, we are stronger in numbers, which is why I believe in crowd funding. If Black American dance has brought you joy in your life, consider the value of that gift. The Empower Foundation was established to provide opportunities, scholarships, and outreach for underserved youth; to eliminate economic inequality, inherent racism, lack of representation, and barriers. It takes money, time, and resources to make all of this happen and we’d love for you to be a small part of making this world a more equitable and beautiful place and pay it forward to the next generation of artists. Please consider investing in this community and visit this link to donate.
- Orchard Park Jazz Picnic – a concert the Mint Julep Jazz Band (my band) is hosting on June 10, 2023
- Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers album Kickstarter – we’re recording in August, campaign runs through June 15, 2023. I’m singing on this album and completely missed that this campaign had launched until someone told me today, because Facebook.
- Mint Julep Jazz Band at the Sorrow Drowner in Wilmington, NC – seriously, the coolest bar in NC, June 17, 2023
- Flying Home – Durham’s Lindy Hop workshop weekend with a killer instructor and band lineup, July 21-23, 2023
- Integrated Rhythm Podcast, Episode 39: I LOVE Fabric – Chisomo Selemani, Bobby White, Donna M’Shanga, and I discuss the fashion industry in Zambia and cultural issues stemming from one of my sewing projects. I love love loved this discussion and hope you will, too!
- Six Count Podcast – we are so incredibly lucky to have a podcast focusing on the jazz community here in Durham, hosted by Xara Wilde, and I am lucky to be her very first live podcast interview, recorded at a house party surrounded by dancing and music friends.
- US Modernist Radio, Episode 301 – this is my second appearance on this architecture podcast and I was delighted to be invited back to talk about music.
- There’s more I can’t even tell you yet, but if a tree falls in the forest, no one will know because Facebook won’t give me back my account from the hacker.
This is mostly for catharsis, just me screaming into the void.
My day job is at a company that has a huge customer service component, the calls are non-stop and we are just a North Carolina-based business. I don’t understand how a company as large as Facebook, who profits from our data and who is the custodian of so much of our time, energy, memories, and even our own business’s customer service can get by without any customer service at all.
In the meantime, I’ll just sit over here on my own virtual Elba and wait.
*Reported login locations; time zone consistent with Nigeria.