Facebook hacker tries to extort money from Harpenden business
PUBLISHED: 15:30 01 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:30 01 January 2014
A hacker took control of a Harpenden entrepreneur's Facebook business page and threatened to close it down over the busy Christmas period, while trying to extort £1,000 from his victim.
The attack has left Matt Crooks, 22, out of pocket and angry after Facebook bosses refused to help, forcing him to seek legal intervention.
The former Sir John Lawes School pupil started his business, Hard Times Clothing, from his Harpenden home while studying graphic design at Oaklands College in St Albans.
As he depends heavily on social networking the firm’s Facebook page, which has over 38,000 “likes,” was an invaluable tool – until recently.
After the hacker took over the site, he tried to extort money from Matt via email.
He told Matt he was aware of how profitable Hard Times Clothing was and that he was “willing” to transfer his page back to him for £1,000 – “nothing compared to the income it generates”.
The hacker continued: “It’s just business, nothing personal. Maybe one day I’ll take a competitor down for you.”
And in an equally threatening tone the hacker told Matt: “I have access to all your brand power, it’s in your best interest to talk to me. I’ll give you five minutes. Would be unfortunate to have a 39,000 likes Facebook page closed down [sic].
“I have no intention of closing your business, however, that will happen if you refuse to answer to me.”
Matt informed the police, but was told they could not help. So he then lodged a complaint with Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre.
He was also forced to engage his solicitor to approach the internet giant directly to wrest back control of his account, after dozens of emails to Facebook pleading for help were met with “an absolute stonewall of silence”.
But his solicitor was left unimpressed when a formal hand-delivered legal letter to Facebook’s London offices was refused, as it was not addressed to a specific person.
Matt’s Facebook page helps drum up about 30 per cent of sales for Hard Times Clothing, as he uses it to network and advertise products.
He said: “I’ve lost thousands of pounds in potential sales over Christmas.”
But after a fortnight of stress and uncertainty, the businessman received good news at the weekend when he finally regained control of his account.
Although relieved, Matt warned: “This problem is becoming increasingly common and Facebook remains unreachable in such events.”
Researchers at cyber-security business Trustwave recently uncovered a massive hack that resulted in nearly two million usernames and passwords for many popular sites, including Facebook and Twitter, being stolen.
A spokeswoman for Facebook confirmed that Hard Times Clothing’s page was now fully restored.
Staff at the social network service were, “always working to identify the next threat and build defences for it”.
She said those worried their account had been compromised should visit www.facebook.com/hacked to pass through security checks, to help them log back into their account.