Facebook criminals rob the owners of small companies to extort money from them

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They then took control of the account she uses to run her small business, very instantly wiping out 90% of the client list she had built up over the previous four years.

Ms McTaggart is one of several small company owners who claim that their Facebook pages have been hacked and that fraudulent charges have been placed on their PayPal or bank accounts as the scammers use their money to buy adverts.

“I was just watching TV when I decided to check Facebook.” I noticed that I had received and accepted a friend request from a guy in the United States.

Ms McTaggart first noticed anything was wrong with her Facebook account last Thursday evening.

Story Highlights

  • Hackers just needed 15 minutes to gain access to Sydney single mother Sarah McTaggart’s Facebook page.

  • What are they aiming for? Her PayPal account, which she uses to purchase Facebook ads for her company.

“Then, about five minutes later, Facebook sent me an email saying my account had been disabled because I had breached community standards,” she said.

The hackers had used a well-known technique, previously reported on by 9news.com.au, which involves changing the profile picture of the account they have hacked to that of a flag associated with the terrorist group ISIS.

The ISIS flag breaches Facebook’s community standards and automatically triggers an alert which causes Facebook to boot the user out of their account. In another measure designed to keep her out, the hackers also changed Ms McTaggart’s age on her account, making her too young to own a Facebook account.

Ms McTaggart said she immediately took measures to to try report the hack to Facebook and prove her identity and age, but they were unsuccessful. Next, the hackers took control of her business page.

“I woke up the next morning and I received an email from PayPal saying a payment of $320 had been authorised for Facebook ads,” Ms McTaggart said. Ms McTaggart had previously used the PayPal account to buy ads for her dreadlock business – Better Off Dread – where she creates and maintains dreadlocks for clients as well as selling accessories.

“It is so distressing. Close to 90 percent of my new business inquiries come through Facebook,” she said. “Almost all of my communications with my clients is on Facebook, so disabling is my account has completely cut off my capacity to talk to any of those people.

Her business, which is largely run out of Facebook, was her livelihood, Ms McTaggart said. The mother-of-one said she was devastated to lose access to both her personal and business page.