by Julie Ann Madden
When Facebook Inc. officials announced this weekend that their social network had been hacked, it was no surprise to an Akron resident.
You may have had her as one of your “Facebook friends” because she was your high school business teacher or she has coordinated past local school All-Class Reunions or she’s on the local city council. Or you may have “befriended” her for a million other reasons.
“I probably had more than 300 friends on my Facebook page,” said Sharon Frerichs of Akron.
“Computers are great when they work and when social media works as you intended it would work,” she said, “but when you run into these problems, it’s a real pain.”
On Jan. 4, a computer hacker created a bogus Facebook page for Frerichs, using photographs and information from her real Facebook page.
People started getting “Friend Request” messages from this “bogus” Sharon Frerichs.
“A lot of people knew something was wrong because they’d been my Facebook friend for years,” said Frerichs, explaining they started calling her asking if she realized a second Facebook page had been created for her.
She changed her password on her real Facebook page, thinking that would solve the problem.
However, it wasn’t long before people were getting emails via Facebook from this “bogus” Sharon Frerichs.
Basically, the emails said Frerichs had gotten $100,000 or $200,000 and she could tell them how to do it.
While some people realized that the emails didn’t sound like they were written by Frerichs, others didn’t.
A few started email conversations with this “bogus” Sharon Frerichs, thinking they were communicating with Frerichs.
Some were asked to click on a website and were wise enough not to, said Frerichs. “Most of the people getting these emails realized I was a decent-enough speller and I didn’t repetitively use the word ‘cuz’ instead of because. They knew it didn’t sound like my email writings.”
In the meantime, Frerichs changed her Facebook password a second time and warned people her Facebook page had been hacked. However, changing her password didn’t solve the problem.
When she tried a third time to change her password, she discovered the hacker had already changed it — locking her out of Facebook.
Over the Feb. 9 – 10 weekend, Frerichs received a phone call saying this “bogus” Frerichs was emailing people saying she had won a lottery and asking them for money so she could tell them how to win, too.
And if people said they didn’t have money, this “bogus” Frerichs asked them to ask their friends and family for the money.
One of these people contacted Akron Police Chief Kimm Nielsen about this.
“It’s all a scam,” said Nielsen, noting his department gets one or two such calls a week. “People think they are going to get something for nothing and it’s too good to be true.”
“The FBI gets an average of 50 to 60 calls a day regarding fradulant text messages or emails,” said Nielesn.
“Why would you send someone $3,000 if they’ve said you’ve won $100,000,” he said. “They could easily take it out of the winnings.”
“If they are asking for money to give you money, it’s a scam,” said Nielsen. “This goes on every day.”
“I’ve tried to contact Facebook,” said Frerichs, “but without my password, I can’t do that. I can’t deactivate my Facebook account either.”
Frerichs has urged her friends to contact Facebook authorities on her behalf to let them know her account has been hacked.
“I don’t know if that has been effective,” said Frerichs. “This has been going on for six weeks.”
She suggests people “defriend” her on Facebook.
“I thought I had all my security set,” said Frerichs, noting she’s not the only local person who has had either their Facebook accounts or email accounts hacked in the last couple of months.
“(Hackers and scam artists) are out there,” she said, “and people need to be aware of it. I don’t think you can be too cautious.”
“I’d love to get off Facebook,” said Frerichs, “but I can’t without a password.”
On the other hand, she would have loved to announce the birth of her new grandchild on Facebook.
“But, there is no way I’m going to do it now,” said Frerichs.
“That’s what we get for living in 2013,” she added.