Indianapolis News and HeadlinesWRTV Investigates


Hackers target social media pages with large followings, Facebook users frustrated with Meta’s response

Hacked online.png
Posted at 5:24 PM, May 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-18 18:30:13-04

BROWNSBURG — Mary Fredette is a bilingual mom living in Brownsburg.

She’s a content creator, influencer, and a contractor paid by Meta.

She has a Facebook following of more than 300,000 followers.

Fredette makes thousands of dollars a month creating content for social media platforms.

“This is my job,” said Fredette. “This is how I support my kids.”

On April 1, it all came crashing down.

“I got an email that said you have been removed as the page's manager for Mary Fredette, which is me myself, and I was like what?” said Fredette. “I was feeling anxiety, fear. If I’m hacked and I can’t get in, what am I going to do?”

Fredette said she has no idea how they gained access to her page, and that she didn’t click on any suspicious links.

WRTV Investigates has uncovered this is a growing problem — hackers are hijacking social media accounts in droves. Not just personal accounts, but also verified business pages.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) saw a 1,044 percent increase in social media account takeover inquiries from 2020 to 2021.

In 2022, the number of social media account takeover reports jumped 288 percent over the previous year.

Facebook users say they can’t call and talk to a live person at Meta.

Mary Fredette used the chat feature to tell Meta about her hacked account.

“They said they would send my information to the relevant team,” said Fredette. “I’ve heard nothing absolutely nothing. Everywhere I went was a dead end."

Meanwhile, the hackers were posting ads on her page and pictures of half-naked women.

"This is one of the posts that had my followers confused because she's blond and blue eyed and kind of looks like me,” said Fredette.

The same thing happened to a Wayne County farmer last fall, leaving them unable to communicate with their customers.

PREVIOUS | Wayne County farmer’s Facebook page hit by hackers

Only after WRTV Investigates sent multiple emails to Meta did the farm get its Facebook page back.

"It's causing significant harm,” said Eva Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps people get their hacked accounts back. “We at ITRC have seen an absolute explosion of social media account takeovers."

Hackers are targeting business pages and verified pages with a lot of followers because it gives them legitimacy.

The hackers can then interact with fans and customers, hack other accounts and steal personal information.

“I often hear they don't have any customer service,” said Velasquez. “Sure they do. But you're not a customer. You're the product. These organizations are simply not investing enough resources to help users recover these accounts.”

WRTV Investigates also asked Scott Shackelford, a cybersecurity expert and professor at IU’s Kelley School of Business, why Meta hasn’t done more to address this problem.

“I think part of the answer is indeed, a lack of competition,” said Shackelford. “With Facebook facing increased pressure to cut costs and lay off 11% of its workforce, I worry about the problem getting worse not better."

Facebook paid a record $5 billion civil penalty in 2020 after the Federal Trade Commission found they failed to protect user data.

WRTV Investigates asked the FTC what they’re doing to hold Meta accountable on the growing number of hacked accounts.

“We can't comment on the practices of specific companies,” an FTC spokesperson responded.

So, WRTV Investigates asked the Indiana Attorney General’s office what they’re doing about it.

“We have the authority to submit subpoenas to Facebook,” said Doug Swetnam, section chief for data privacy and identity theft. “We have a special law enforcement portal we can submit that to but not even the Attorney General has the ability to get anyone on the phone.”

Swetnam encourages consumers to report hacked accounts at

Swetnam went on the dark web and found hacked Facebook pages for sale, plus software and instructions on how to hack account.

“The cost is like a dollar to learn how to hack into the account," said Swetnam.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office has filed lawsuits against TikTok claiming privacy and security violations.

WRTV Investigates asked Swetnam whether Indiana has plans to take any action against Meta.

“I think with all the big tech companies, we are watching very closely what they do,” said Swetnam.

Shackelford said concerned users should contact Congress, which could put pressure on Meta to do more to address the problem.

“If you care about your privacy online, contact your representatives at the state and federal level," said Shackelford.

Mary Fredette says she was able to get back into her Facebook account, but is currently sharing access with the hackers.

"I'm speaking out about this because this is not OK,” said Fredette. “I feel completely torn and betrayed by Meta. That they could just throw us away just like that."

Fredette filed a police report for identity theft, contacted the FBI and the Indiana Attorney General’s office.

She also asked WRTV Investigates for help.

We contacted Meta and they are gathering information to get her account back in her control.


  • Keep reporting the problem. The squeaky wheel gets the grease
  • If you’ve been hacked, run a security scan
  • Delete any malware from your device
  • Set up multifactor authentication and never share the codes with anyone
  • Never click on suspicious links
  • Freeze your credit so no one can open accounts in your name
  • Use unique passwords for all of your accounts
  • Check your credit reports for any unusual activity
  • More tips here from the FTC

 WRTV Investigates contacted multiple Indiana members of Congress about the growing problem of hacked social media accounts.
Congressman Andre Carson provided the following response:

“Congressman Carson has been an early and strong supporter of demanding notice and disclosure of information that consumers lose in hacks and financial information leaks. In 2013, Congressman Carson cosponsored the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, which directs some federal agencies to report to Congress a cybersecurity strategic research and development plan every three years and annual updates on implementing the plan.

Beyond legislation, Congressman Carson has also signed on in support of more funding for federal Intelligence and Cybersecurity Diversity Fellowships to help find solutions to these common problems by strengthening our cyber defense systems. 

Anyone or any entity who obtains private information, financial or otherwise, without their permission or that of a court is illegal. Congressman Carson will continue to advocate for more accountability, protection for consumers, and preventing future hacks.”


Contact WRTV Investigates