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Zoe Williamson, 42, a dog behaviourist from Suffolk, had just started work and was optimistic about the day ahead. However, within just 10 minutes, she found her circumstances totally transformed, causing panic and distress.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, she said: “I’d started work, and I received an email from Meta, Facebook’s parent company, saying someone had tried to log into my account. I was out at the time, but immediately I knew there was something wrong, so I drove home.
“Within 10 minutes I was in front of the computer, but in this time the hacker had brought in three other new people into my account.
“I was trying to alert Facebook, change passwords, it was a race against time, and I could see them changing things on my own account. I was dealing with it live, seeing it happen in real time, and I couldn’t do a thing.”
Eventually, Ms Williamson found herself locked out of her account, with her personal page suspended.
Recalling her dread, Ms Williamson said: “I felt powerless, and I was despairing. I’ve built my business up over 11 years, and my heart was pounding watching it happen.
“I wondered what they were doing, what they were posting and whether they were doing any damage. I then realised all of my financial data was on the account for my business, so I contacted my bank only to find my account had been cleared out.
“I sat there with my head in my hands, I couldn’t believe this was what was happening to me. It was game over. I can’t explain the emotions I went through. I tried for hours and hours to find a solution.”
The issue related directly to the use of Facebook Business and Ads manager, both of which small business owners can use to promote their organisations.
Ms Williamson explained she pays for Facebook to run advertising for her business, which involved inputting her card and bank account details.
She said she was asked for two forms of payment, to cover the eventuality of one potentially failing, but felt comfortable in doing so given Facebook’s security features.
The dog behaviourist then received an email which stated her page had been reported “multiple times” and was under the threat of being unpublished due to presumed violations of Facebook’s Terms of Service.
She added: “To have this happen to little old me, just trying to earn a living was spectacular. The hackers have no morals, and they just don’t care. It’s unbelievable.
“It’s affected my life and my staff, and because I run a small rescue with 78 animals in my care, they’ve been impacted too.
“Hackers are evil people who do evil things. But my bank has been amazing and they gave me loads of reassurance.”
Fortunately, since the incident, with the help of Facebook, Ms Williamson has been able to access her account once again and has restarted her business.
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However, with Ms Williamson’s personal Facebook linked to her business page, the hack impacted her on multiple levels.
Sadly, the dog behaviourist has dealt with grief following the sudden death of her brother last year. Her personal Facebook had memories of the time the siblings shared together, and served as a comfort in what was already a distressing time.
Now, these have been lost, alongside the tributes his friends had paid to him, a matter Ms Williamson described as “heartbreaking”.
Ms Williamson urged people to stay alert to potentially being hacked, and said: “If you have any type of personal or sensitive details on your Facebook, look into that, and see what you need – get rid of anything you absolutely don’t.
“I’d also advise having a separate bank account for your Facebook profile, so that if hackers do get in there is some damage limitation. I’ll be doing things differently in the future. I shouldn’t have to, but if it is the only way to protect myself, I will have to do it.”
Express.co.uk spoke to a Meta representative who explained the company takes “safety and security seriously”, encouraging all users to create a strong password, and be suspicious of emails or messages which ask for personal details.
Those who are concerned they may have been hacked can visit Facebook’s dedicated page to secure their account, and access guidance and tools on how to stay safe.
The Security Checkup feature allows people to add more security to their account, checking login activity, reviewing profile information, and more.
The spokesperson added: “Hacks don’t always happen on Facebook. Often these situations occur when accounts are compromised due to third party malware or malicious software.
“We will keep improving our systems to detect malicious activity, including through the use of machine learning, and ensure that people continue to have a safe experience on Facebook.”
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