Cyber criminals demand Alberta woman to pay ransom for stolen social media accounts

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WATCH: A Calgary woman is one of the latest victims of a cyberattack where the hackers are demanding she pays a ransom. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, cybersecurity experts say you may be asking for more problems if you pay up. – Nov 3, 2021

An ever-growing crime in Canada has hit a Calgary woman hard.

Connie Hamilton is just one of the latest victims of a cyberattack — one involving a ransom demand.

“I pleaded with (the hacker),” she told Global News. “I told him, ‘This account has no value to you. I don’t have any money.'”

It started on Oct. 26 when Hamilton got an email alert advising her that one of her social media accounts had been compromised.

She acted right away and changed her passwords but soon found out the hacker — whom she said she traced to Nigeria — was also busy.

“I changed the passwords, and he’s hacking me at the same time out of Nigeria on his device,” she told Global News. “And he beats me, he beats me clean. He changes my email, my email verification, he changes my phone number.

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“The hacker is faster, younger and smarter than I am,” she said, “and he did manage to get ahold of my account.”

On that account were photos and condolences about her mother and sister’s deaths.

“My mother and my sister died in 2018,” she said. “I would just like to have those pictures and those memories back.”

Stolen memories from a Calgary woman’s Facebook page. Ctsy: Connie Hamilton

Hamilton said she tried to appeal to the hacker’s humanity, but it didn’t work.

In messages she showed Global News, she asked the hacker: “You hacked my profile. It holds my memories of my dead mother and sister. Please give it back”.

The hacker responded: “It will cost you $100 for me to send you the username and password.”

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“Yah, no! You can’t be trusted even a little bit. Crushing souls just for fun?” Hamilton shot back.

Hamilton said the person on the other end continued to ask for money — not only for her personal accounts but also for her business account, Lioness Interiors.

Watch: Elaborate student loan fraud scheme in Alberta nets scammers $240K

She already had extra security on those accounts but added they were linked to her Facebook account.

My bad. I should have made sure I had several profiles,” Hamilton admitted. “But we think we’re protected on Facebook.”

She eventually managed to secure her business accounts and put warnings on her website and social media pages alerting others that she had been hacked.

But she refused to entertain the thought of sending any money, which the hacker asked for in the form of gift cards.

“Is a 12-year-old beating me? Because who asks for $100? But maybe it’s a process. If I give the hundred bucks, maybe it’s neverending right?”

Calgary woman fights to get her social media accounts back after hacker demands ransom. Global Calgary

University of Calgary professor and cybersecurity expert Tom Keenan agreed once you give in, you could be setting yourself up for more demands.

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“We don’t say never pay but, of course, you shouldn’t pay because it only encourages them,” he said.

“If you do pay, are you going to get your stuff back? Maybe they’ll just ask for more money.”

Keenan added it’s important to remember social media platforms can be hacked.

“One thing I always tell businesses is it’s fine to use Facebook to promote your businesses but, for heaven’s sake, don’t rely on it.

“Don’t critically rely on something like Facebook. Don’t even rely on your own computer. Have a backup somewhere so if your computer is attacked and the ransomware guy says, ‘I want a million dollars,’ you go, ‘No!'”

Watch: Cyber-attacks on the rise throughout COVID-19 pandemic

Hamilton reached out several times to Facebook for help getting her profiles restored and secured.

“No human contact. There has been zero human contact,” she added, “which is startling.”

Global News did reach out to the social media giant. We have been working together with them and Hamilton to find her accounts and get them restored.

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