I change my password on a quarterly basis, I don’t stay logged into my social media accounts on multiple devices, and I would never open any attachments that look questionable.

In theory, I was following all the best practices that would keep hackers from accessing my personal social media profiles… but despite my best efforts, it still happened.

I am very active on social media. I own three businesses and regularly use social platforms like Facebook and Instagram to promote them. I find this to be a very rewarding way of engaging with my clients and target market, as well as promoting my products and services. Roughly a month ago, I got a text from a friend saying that something inappropriate had been posted to my personal Facebook profile.  In the time that it took me to open my Facebook app on my phone, Facebook had already shut down my personal account.  In hindsight, I’m happy it happened so quickly. Because of the immediate shut-down, fewer people saw the inappropriate videos (6 of them in total) that had been posted to my page, myself included. Because these videos went against Meta’s community standards, they immediately shut down both my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Initially, I was concerned about what the process of regaining access to my account would entail.  Meta asked me to send proof of my identity by providing them with a copy of my photo ID. I did some research, and this is their standard practice. I submitted my photo ID and completed the required forms to confirm my identity. To my surprise, despite following the steps laid out for me, I was told my account could not be restored as planned. The videos that were posted on my page directly violated community standards, and Meta immediately deleted my account. There was no way to regain access to my account. I was now a ghost on social media.

For the next 30 days I received multiple emails through my recovery email address saying I had “x” many days to reclaim my account; however, when I tried to follow the process to reclaim my account, I got nowhere.  After 16 years of being on Facebook, I suddenly ceased to exist. To add insult to injury, I’ve had my Facebook profile longer than I’ve had my own children, and in losing my account, I also lost all of the memories I’ve posted over the years!  This is quite possibly the most devastating part of the whole story. If anyone tried to search my old profile, you would be unable to find me. If someone were to look for prior messenger conversations we’ve had, they would be gone. The personal and professional connections I had built over the years were suddenly severed.

In addition to the struggle of losing my personal page, my business pages were only linked to my personal profile. They are now ‘rogue’ pages with no owner.  Meta has no customer support to assist with this, so I am left to recreate my business pages, start my followings from scratch and risk creating mass confusion for the rest of my business’ life as there will always be two pages existing. My customers will have to differentiate which is the active page as I cannot delete or shut down the ‘rogue’ pages.  This is hugely frustrating for both clients and business owners.

I have since learned that one way that I could have mitigated the business page issues was to create a secondary profile (essentially a shell profile) and make them an admin to the business page as well.  This way, should my account get hacked again, an account that I have access to could still regain access to my business page.  I would highly recommend that if your profile is the only admin on your business pages, you create a secondary account and make it the admin as well.

Another incident occurred the day after my account was deleted. The credit card linked to my account that I use for purchasing Facebook ads was used fraudulently overseas. Thankfully, the credit card company questioned the transaction and locked my card immediately and issued a refund.  Admittedly, I have saved my card for future transactions with various companies in the past, however, I no longer feel confident using this feature.

Before this situation, I was unaware of the complexities and hurdles that one would face in attempting to regain control of their own assets. As a business owner, I had never been warned of the dangers of linking business accounts to a singular personal account, nor had I been given guidance as to how to prevent this from happening. While we may never know exactly how these hackers gained control of my page to post those videos in the first place, I hope those reading this will take the necessary precautions to protect themselves if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.