When Jane Johnson was the victim of a malicious Facebook scam, she turned to the police for help.
The 49-year-old mother-of-one called the City of London Police’s Action Fraud hotline to say scammers had hacked into her Facebook account and started spending money on her credit card.
The Action Fraud officer she spoke to classified her case as a criminal offense, said she would be assigned a case manager within 28 days – and then gave her some startling advice.
Business owner Jane Johnson has been the victim of a malicious Facebook scam
Jane, who used to work in the city, says she was advised to write a scathing letter of complaint to Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire boss of Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Jane says the Action Fraud case officer told her it was becoming increasingly difficult for police to deal with the wave of social media scams being reported by victims.
She felt it would be helpful if the victims bombarded Mr. Zuckerberg with letters threatening to report him to regulators if he didn’t crack down on fraud.
Jane says the call operator then helped her craft a letter to the billionaire meta boss based on her own case. She says it sounded like the call operator had a clear template in mind for the letter’s content.
In their message to Mr. Zuckerberg, seen by Money Mail, they said, “I know Meta has a duty of care to protect users from fraud.” I’ve been trying to contact someone on Facebook for almost three days but haven’t had any luck .
“It is impossible to contact Meta without signing up. If your account has been hacked and the criminals have denied you any access, there is no way they can reach you.”
“If you don’t take action promptly I have no choice but to report this to the regulator, Ofcom and the Finance Ombudsman as my business has suffered a financial loss.” There was also a data breach which I am reporting to the ICO if Meta doesn’t take action.”
But in the end, Jane never sent the letter. She considered it unlikely that it would ever be read by the meta boss and therefore would not make any difference to her case or the fight against cheating.
Jane says the operator helped her draft a letter to Mark Zuckerberg based on her own case
When Money Questioned Mail Action Fraud, it said it was not its policy to “tell people to write letters to specific people” and that employees were following standard operating procedures.
Jane’s saga began when she woke up at home in Richmond upon Thames on July 30 to find her Facebook account had been compromised.
The first sign something was wrong was a notification from her Starling Banking app, alerting Jane to payments being debited from her credit card.
Jane runs an online business called Careering into Motherhood, which gives working moms access to a supportive collection of coaches. The community of 11,000 members is operated through a Facebook group page.
She soon discovered that criminals had hacked into her Facebook account and used her credit cards – the details of which were stored in her account – to pay for online advertising for services such as online gambling and Halloween costumes.
The scammers had only charged her card £1 but had also set up a payment plan that would have charged her up to £5,000 a day for the ads.
“My bank, Starling, was great – they immediately froze my credit card and saved me from losing huge amounts of money,” says Jane.
“But Facebook was an absolute nightmare.” It’s impossible to contact anyone on Meta unless you can log into your account, but I got locked out.
“The ads were posted to my account so I was risking my reputation and everything I had built.”
After several attempts to get through to Facebook, Jane used her contacts to speak to someone at the social media giant – and was eventually able to protect her account from the scammers. She then called Action Fraud to report the crime.
“The woman on the Action Fraud phone was very sympathetic and suggested I google Mark Zuckerberg’s office email address,” she says. “I thought it was a little far-fetched.”
On the rise: 1.1 million people fall victim to social media-originated scams each year
Money Mail’s “Stop the Social Media Scammers” campaign is calling on the tech giants to take responsibility for fraud on their platforms and share in the cost of compensating victims.
Police have struggled to deal with the fraud epidemic in recent years as scams have been rampant on social media.
Last week we announced that up to 1.1 million people fall victim to social media-originated scams each year.
The House of Commons Judiciary Committee warned last September that only 2 per cent of police funds go to fighting fraud – despite fraud accounting for 41 per cent of reported crimes in England and Wales.
For many years, victims of fraud have been encouraged to report their cases to Action Fraud. The center will be renovated in 2024 after the government admitted in January this year that “support for fraud victims is patchy and inconsistent” and “insufficiently resourced to meet the growing challenges of fraud”.
The Government has pledged to pay £30million to the City of London Police over the next three years to improve service to victims.
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “Advice that urges people to write letters to specific people is not part of the guidelines that Action Fraud and the National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit apply.”
“Anyone who has been the victim of fraud or cybercrime should contact Action Fraud online or by phone on 0300 123 2040; If you live in Scotland call Police Scotland on number 101.
“If you’ve lost money to a scam, you should also contact your bank immediately.”
Have you been the victim of a social media scam? Write to email@example.com
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on this, we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We don’t write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to compromise our editorial independence.