CHICAGO (WLS) — A local business owner says her Facebook business page was hijacked by hackers and now the scammers are using it to rip off prospective renters.
The warning issued is twofold: First, if you are looking for a rental property, you need to beware of fake postings that could trick you into sending money to a scammer. Second, you need to protect your Facebook accounts and business pages from hackers.
“Facebook is doing nothing about it. It’s sad,” said Mary Gilardi.
Gilardi has been emailing Facebook for months about her hacked Facebook business page. It used to be named after her company. Key Renter Property Management, but was taken over by hackers in July and the name changed to a logo that says “USA Family.”
“Even though the people who hacked our Facebook page changed the profile picture and the name, all of our links and everything, are there,” she said.
She said that the hackers are reposting her Key Renter ads on Facebook at lower prices. The hackers then steal deposit money from customers who think they are getting legitimate deals on a rental homes.
“Look at all these people who are getting scammed,” she said. “I felt awful but what do you do? I’ve reached out to Facebook so many times.”
One customer who was on a known recorded line called Gilardi after figuring out that scammers were using her listings. She told Gilardi, “We fell for a scam and then we found, like, the actual like property like on your website. Um, so basically I need your help because, um, I need to go to the police station, I’m so sorry. I need to go to police station and I need them to, like, talk to you.”
Desperate to regain control of her page, Gilardi messaged the hackers.
“They messaged me and said for $300 they would give me back my Facebook page,” she said.
Experts say you should never pay ransom to scammers; not only will you lose money, you’ll likely not get your page back.
If you are in this situation all you can do is message Facebook, follow Facebook’s instructions to prove your identity and wait. Also make sure you activate two-factor authentication, which Gilardi admits she didn’t do.
The I-Team reached out to Facebook and its parent company Meta about Gilardi’s pleas for help but never heard back.
“If Facebook is going to be there for business, then they should be able to support the businesses,” Gilardi said.
If you are looking for rental properties online, you should never send deposits or application fess until verifying that you are speaking to a real landlord or property management company. View the property in person with the landlord or property manager and make sure they have a brick-and-mortar address. And if the listing seems too-good-to-be true, beware.