ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Michelle Shafer’s whole world came crashing down overnight.
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Shafer is a freelance photographer based in St. Augustine, Florida with ten years of experience and multiple awards. With over 14,000 followers, Shafer says her Facebook page was a large aspect of her business, with over 90% of her business being obtained through social media. However, that account is now permanently banned, as Shafer’s account was hacked and child pornography posted to it.
Now, much of what she has spent years to built, is gone overnight.
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“Literally happened overnight. I woke up in the morning with emails saying ‘Is this you?’ and it wasn’t,” Shafer recounted. “And someone else posted horrible things.”
According to Shafer, there was also $250 stolen from her credit card attached to the account, as well as from the credit card of another businesses’ account she managed.
Shafer filed an incident report with the St. Johns Sheriffs Office, who said there isn’t much they can do according to Shafer. However, the financial and business aspects aren’t the end of it, as Shafer also lost interactions she had with her brother on that account, who died in a motorcycle accident four years ago.
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“We’re almost exactly ten years apart and we just had this little thing together where people thought we were twins and we would say ‘yeah, just ten years apart’. That was our little thing,” Shafer recounted while choking back tears. “I would post that stuff on social media. And those little things are gone.”
Now, Shafer says she has no choice but to keep moving forward.
“They took away the stuff they had on social media, but they can’t take any other memories from me,” Shafer said.
Action News Jax spoke with Mini Zeng, assistant professor of Computing Science and Director of Cybersecurity Training at Jacksonville University, who says this type of situation isn’t that uncommon for small business owners, who are targeted frequently by hackers on social media.
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“The attacker knows that these group of owners, most of them are not getting professionally trained by the cyber security training of those big companies, [which] have a special team to take care of their cyber security policies,” Zeng explains.
The aspect of posting of explicit content is also common Zeng says, as it gets followers to flood the business owner’s page as part of a “phishing” campaign, hoping the followers will click a link that would give the hacker their personal information.
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Zeng says in order to avoid this happening to you, never click on the contents of an email you don’t recognize.