If you received a suspicious Facebook message from your dead granny looking to tell you about a great new financial opportunity, you’d report the fraudulent account to Facebook, wouldn’t you?
That’s exactly what many Facebook users said they did right before the company seemingly penalized them for doing so.
Cory Comer, a director of marketing at the company RateLinx, was locked out of his account for a week, with no help from Facebook. In addition to that, being that his account is the one personal profile connected to RateLinkx’s Facebook Page, no one in the company could access the page either.
“I had an old colleague of mine add me on Facebook as a friend. After I accepted the request, he reached out to me on Messenger and asked me to give him money,” said Comer. “So I was like, ‘Alright, you’re not Dave’ and I reported them. Just a few hours later, I was locked out of my account.”
Upon being locked out, Facebook requests the user upload a form of identification for verification purposes. This would seem like a simple fix for this silly problem, except that these users are all reporting that the ID process doesn’t work. This leaves users locked out of their account indefinitely, without access to connected business Pages, ad accounts, and other important features. With no way to contact Facebook, many have taken to Twitter in hopes of making enough noise to finally get help from Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
Comer has been one of the on the Twitter hashtag, trying to raise awareness. He says he’s spoken to users who have been locked out of their Facebook accounts now for a month. Nearly all follow a similar pattern: they were locked out shortly after reporting a fake profile.
“My account has been locked 23 days now with zero assistance in any form from Facebook,” Kara Missione told Mashable via email.
“I run a large part of my business on Facebook and we pay significant ad costs,” Missione continued. “I’ve lost income. Financially and emotionally it’s been a hit.”
Software engineer Doug Killmer told Mashable that he received a friend request from an account claiming to be a family friend who had passed away. Thirty minutes after reporting the imposter, his own Facebook account was suspended.
“I decided to report the profile to Facebook since I knew this person was no longer living and it was in violation of the Facebook Community Standards,” said Killmer. “The Facebook app prompted me to submit a copy of my photo ID for verification purposes. At that point, my account was locked out. I’ve been unable to access any of their services, including Facebook Pages I manage, Facebook Ad accounts for my organization, my Facebook Developers account, and Facebook Business Manager.”
Attempts made by users to reach Facebook through contact forms for assistance have gone unanswered. Right before publishing this story, Comer told Mashable he had finally been granted access to his account.
More direct avenues to get in touch with the company aren’t available to them. The problem? They require them to sign into the Facebook accounts they can’t access.
Attorney Michelle Gruesbeck shared a similar story with me. She received a message from someone pretending to be her aunt, who has dementia. The account tried to offer her a “financial opportunity.”
“I knew something was up. There was no way she was even capable of typing these sentences,” said Gruesbeck. ”I reported this user because I’m dedicated to preventing fraud. I thought I was helping out, and potentially helping other people out. As a result of trying to stop fraud and scammers on their platform, I’m now being penalized.”
Gruesbeck, who also volunteers at Saving Grace of Maryland animal rescue, says being locked out of her account has hindered her ability to collect annual donations for the organization through Facebook’s birthday fundraiser program.
“I’ve used the Facebook mobile app, the Facebook messenger app, and the desktop,” she said of her attempts to fix the issue and provide the company with a form of identification. “I’ve repeatedly tried to upload passport photos as well as drivers license photos, without any success.”
“Because I can’t log into Facebook I am now also locked out of any application which requires Facebook authentication,” she continued. “When you think about all the applications that you use that require Facebook authentication, that means this bug can have a pretty widespread impact on a person’s life.”
Artem Russakovskii, founder of the popular tech news site Android Police, shared with me how his account was after a user set up a new account pretending to be Russakovskii. The imposter then reported Russakovskii’s real account, with its 15 year history and more than 110,000 followers.
Aaaaaaaaand my Facebook account got locked again for the same exact fake reason of impersonation as last time.
— Artem Russakovskii (@ArtemR) October 14, 2019
Russakovskii was able to reach a contact at Facebook last time to get the issue fixed. Today, he discovered his account has been locked for impersonation again.
Mashable has contacted Facebook for more information and will update this post when we hear back.