Two smart people fell for a scam

WASHINGTONPOST

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To his knowledge, Bell is a savvy businessman, so when his account promises a 350 percent return in mere weeks, the therapist takes the leap.
“It’s a weird process for me,” the therapist writes to Bell on Facebook Messenger in August 2023.
AdvertisementWhile the therapist got ensnared in one of social media’s persistent, expensive problems, his acquaintance Bell fell victim to a Facebook hack.
Hacking and being scammed are so common that law enforcement officials are growing just as frustrated as consumers.
Help Desk, the personal technology section at The Washington Post, has received hundreds of emails from people locked out of their Facebook accounts with no idea how to get back in.
“Scammers use every platform available to them and constantly adapt to evade enforcement,” a Meta spokesperson said in an emailed statement last week.
But what separates his case from other hacks is that he ceded control of his account after spending a few days trying to regain access.
AdvertisementWith every post, Bell said, his phone exploded with texts from friends asking if he’s been hacked and mocking the scammer’s posts.
After her page was also hacked in September, she finds that she knows someone who works at Facebook.
Within hours, she is connected with a specialist, who helps secure her account and her husband’s.

When Nashville chef Matt Bell, 44, posts on his Facebook page about the huge profits he has helped clients make from cryptocurrency investments, one of his fans, a therapist acquainted with Bell’s involvement in the Little Rock culinary scene, ignores the warning signs.

Since Bell, as far as he knows, is a shrewd businessman, the therapist jumps when his account guarantees a 350 percent return in a matter of weeks.

In August 2023, the therapist writes to Bell on Facebook Messenger, saying, “It’s a weird process for me.”. Except for someone I trust who is similar to you, I wouldn’t do [it] for anybody else. “.

The therapist, who requested to remain anonymous due to fears that his reputation would be tarnished, is unaware that he is communicating with a con artist who has gained access to Bell’s account. Ultimately, the therapist forfeits his $5,000 investment and becomes one of the many customers who, according to the Federal Trade Commission, lost over $10 billion to fraud in 2023—a significant increase from the nearly $9 billion they had lost to scams in 2022.

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While the therapist was caught up in one of the costly, ongoing issues with social media, his friend Bell was hacked on Facebook. Law enforcement officials and consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the prevalence of hacking and scams. A bipartisan group of forty-one attorneys general urged Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, to take “immediate action” in response to “the dramatic increase in user account takeovers” on its platforms, in a letter sent last week to the leading attorney for Meta.

The Washington Post’s Help Desk, a personal technology section, has fielded hundreds of emails from users who are locked out of their Facebook accounts and are unsure of how to unlock them. In 2022, a number of hack victims reported to The Post that they were unable to get through to customer service representatives by phone and that their emails were frequently repetitive and of little use.

According to the letter, “in recent years, our offices have experienced a dramatic and persistent spike in complaints concerning account takeovers that is not only alarming for our constituents but also a substantial drain on our office resources.”. The attorneys general proceed to state that they “refuse to act in the capacity of [Meta’s] customer service representatives.”. “.

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Meta says it makes significant investments to find and identify fraudulent activity and compromised accounts.

A Meta representative stated in an email last week that “scammers use every platform available to them and constantly adapt to evade enforcement.”. We make significant investments in our well-trained enforcement and review teams. Periodically, we disseminate self-defense strategies and resources, facilitate the reporting of possible infractions, collaborate with law enforcement, and offer legal recourse. “.

Despite enabling two-factor authentication, Bell’s account was compromised. However, the fact that he gave up control of his account after attempting to get back in for a few days sets his case apart from other hacks. His hacker posted nearly everyday, from late June to September, videos of people praising Matthew Bell for changing their lives as a “verified crypto broker” and anecdotes about tearful couples purchasing homes on Bell’s Facebook page. Additionally, the hacker has written lengthy, existential diatribes about the difficulties of owning your own business and strangely personal posts about Bell’s wife, Amy.

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Bell said that friends started texting him after every post, making fun of the scammer’s posts and inquiring as to whether he had been hacked. After noticing the con artist post the phrase “Hakuna Frittata,” Jessica Phillips texts her friend Bell, saying, “The man [is] robbing you of your street cred.”. “.

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According to recent data, Bell is not alone in his decision to just stop school. Approximately 100 out of 1,034 respondents to a 2023 Identity Theft Resource Center survey stated that they either stopped using social media after an attack or significantly decreased their usage.

“Through anecdotal evidence, we hear from victims who have given up trying to recover their hijacked accounts and are stepping away from social media altogether,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “They no longer see the value of using social media outweighing the risks because the experience has been so difficult and emotionally taxing.”. “.

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Speaking for Meta, Erin McPike declined to comment on what might have transpired in Bell’s case but noted that the company encourages users to report scams on Facebook and Instagram and provides information on how to avoid them on its website. The ITRC does point out that these questions are frequently addressed.

Velasquez stated, “At this time, there is no escalation assistance for customers.”. Many victims claim that after submitting their online complaint to the platform directly, they never hear back from it and it disappears into oblivion. “.

The decline in customer service directed towards clients has coincided with recent layoffs from trust and safety teams at a number of social media platforms, though the exact causes are unknown.

The Integrity Institute’s Glenn Ellingson, a visiting fellow, observes that X, the platform that was formerly known as Twitter, saw a sharp drop in user base following its severe cuts to user protections. A Pew Research Center study published in May 2023 revealed that most X’s U. s. the platform in the year before, or they stopped using it altogether.

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According to Ellingson, “users who have a particularly bad experience with a platform—first of all, they don’t come back, and secondly, they tell their friends,” which is why this is important. People get uncomfortable on these platforms, they don’t feel accepted in these communities, and they leave to join other communities that are managed by different businesses. “.

The truth Matthew Bell does, in the end, make a comeback on Facebook, but mainly because of his wife Amy. It turns out that she knows someone who works at Facebook after her page was hacked in September as well. After a few hours, she gets in touch with an expert who assists in securing both her and her husband’s accounts.

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