KAGAWONG – Earlier this month Rick Nelson, Old Mill Heritage Centre curator, was shocked to find he had lost control of the museum’s Facebook account. After numerous attempts to contact Facebook administration, Mr. Nelson reported the incident to the OPP’s Gore Bay detachment and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Facebook responded to a call from the OPP and were able to return administrative control of the page to Mr. Nelson who announced the news on March 15.
“It’s been taken over by a man from Vietnam and he’s still running it,” Mr. Nelson told The Recorder on March 11. Mr. Nelson is one of two administrators for the page, along with a former student, Alistair, who had set the page up. “Even though he was no longer my student I stayed in touch with him on a regular basis so I kept him on as a consultant. He still had administrator access, links, and passwords. Somehow this hacker got a hold of Alistair’s personal Facebook page, tore it to shreds and locked him out. He got access to the museum’s Facebook page at the same time.”
Both legitimate administrators were evicted and the hacker appointed himself as administrator. “He started rewriting the page, putting girlie pictures on, getting rid of our phone number and putting on a Vietnamese phone number,” said Mr. Nelson. “He changed the email addresses and posted links to ads and other things. They even hacked into the PayPal account through the Facebook page. Luckily they only got less than $10. It was a test. They took $6.99 one day and $1.99 another just to see if they could do it. We did contact PayPal and they severed the link so they couldn’t take any more and they reimbursed us.”
Mr. Nelson noted that he’d spent a week attempting to resolve the issue by following Facebook protocols but hadn’t gotten any kind of help whatsoever from Facebook. He had other technical people look at the takeover but was told he wasn’t dealing with simple fraud. “They said, ‘this is identity theft and you need to report it,’ so I called the OPP. They recommended I file a report with the Canadian anti-fraud website, which I also did. The OPP reached out to Facebook and they called me today (March 11) for the first time.” Facebook support talked Mr. Nelson through troubleshooting the problem and worked on fast-tracking the issue through red tape.
“For two weeks the Old Mill Heritage Centre has been under new management and it’s just been maddening watching my page being rewritten by these culprits,” Mr. Nelson said. “It’s unnerving. You’re actually watching it in real time as they’re rearranging your page. At least they didn’t say anything disparaging.”
Once he had wrested control back, there was a lot of mopping up, added Mr. Nelson, noting he had to eradicate everything the culprits had done line by line. “The OPP said they see this a lot and don’t expect to catch these guys,” he said. “It’s almost guaranteed who they say they are online is not who they really are, so they’re smart and they’re determined.”
Facebook advised Mr. Nelson to use two-step verification to prevent a reoccurrence. Two-step verification can be found under settings in security on your Facebook profile page.