INDIANAPOLIS—Facebook can be a valuable tool to help businesses communicate with customers and find new clients.
But when their accounts get hacked, it can be devastating.
An Eastern Indiana farmer reached out to WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney in the hopes of getting her Facebook page back and warning others.
Pamela and Adam Jones are 5th generation farmers.
The Jones Family Farm is 35 acres in Milton Indiana where they grow corn, green beans, tomatoes, flowers and pumpkins.
Pamela uses their Facebook page to connect with customers and encourage them to visit the farm.
"It gets people here,” said Pamela Jones. "That is our only way of communicating with people. We don't have an email we send out."
The Jones Family Farm’s Facebook page had 3,000 followers when it was hacked last month at the height of pumpkin season.
As a result, the farm saw a 60% decrease in sales for its last weekend for pumpkins.
“That’s hard,” said Pamela through tears. “Why am I crying? It’s our livelihood.”
To make matters worse, the hackers are posting picture after picture of half-naked women in suggestive poses.
Pam is locked out of her account, but WRTV showed her some of the images posted lately.
“Oh ugh,” said Pamela. “Yeah, because that’s what is happening on our farm.”
The Facebook page once full of corn and pumpkin pictures is spewing out hundreds of risqué images.
“So, it's mostly swimsuit pictures,” said Pamela as she looked at the images. “I'm usually in a dirty t-shirt and overalls looking like a mess!"
The farm’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings are now on hold.
"I could see where it could be extremely damaging by next year if it's not fixed,” said Pamela.
Their page now has 36,000 followers, but it appears many of them are bots, or fake accounts.
WRTV Investigates shared their page with the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana, who told us hackers often target small businesses because they’ll pay a ransom to get their page back.
"Business pages have a large following of people,” said Jennifer Adamany with the BBB. “It creates a wider audience for scammers to try to tempt. In this case, the content they're posting— they could be trying to lure someone into a romance scam or even see who is responding to reach out to their personal accounts and hack their accounts."
The BBB recommends small businesses:
- Have multiple administrators on your account
- Use multi-factor authentication
- Set up alerts for unrecognized logins
- Keep an email list of your customers as a backup
“It's a good tactic to want to reach your customers to alert them about sales and events or to alert them your account has been compromised and to not engage until you can get it resolved,” said Adamany.
And course, do not click on suspicious links.
That’s how Pamela Jones’ personal and business account got hacked.
She got what she thought was a notification about a copyright issue from Facebook and clicked on it, not realizing it was a phishing attempt.
“I was totally locked out of the account in less than five minutes,” said Pamela.
Pamela Jones has yet to receive a ransom request and said there’s no way she would give them money.
“I’m not doing stupid twice,” said Pamela.
Pamela has been unable to reach Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to get her account back.
So, she asked us for help.
WRTV Investigates reached out to Meta, and got a response from a representative who asked several questions about the Jones Family Farm’s situation.
“I've shared all details with the team who manages hacks,” read the email from Meta to WRTV. “Will circle back when I have more to share."
Farmers are known for their resilience.
While the Jones’ wait on Facebook to take action, they plan to rely on the personal relationships they’ve grown organically.
“It's not like Amazon Prime where you just click it,” said Pamela. “You've talked to me. You've seen my planting and harvesting the food that's going to go to your table and be enjoyed by your family."
After WRTV got involved, Pamela was able to get her personal Facebook page back.
WRTV Investigates is still working on getting the Jones Family Farm back into their Facebook account.
It can be difficult to get a hold of Meta, especially if you're locked out of your account.
They don't have a customer service phone number where you can talk to a live person.
Here’s what Facebook’s website says you should do if you suspect someone has hacked or taken over your account:
1. Secure your account.
Visit facebook.com/hacked immediately to secure your account. Our guided help tool will take you through each step to protect your page from hackers. You will be prompted to change your password and review your recent login activity.
2. Get a security code sent to your email address or phone number.
Facebook has added another layer of protection that you can use to ensure your account is secure. You can request that we send a security to your email address or phone number to help us confirm that you are indeed the owner of the account.
To request a security code:
- Tap My login info isn’t working on the login screen.
- Choose either your email address or phone number to have the code sent to you and then tap Send Security Code.
- Enter the 6-digit code you receive and tap Confirm and follow the on-screen instructions.
3. Report your account.
You should report your account to us if you’re unable to recover your account with the security code sent to you. We will do our best to help you access and secure your account so you can continue connecting and sharing with your friends and family.