Hackers hold business's Facebook page hostage

Posted at 9:04 AM, Apr 14, 2016

A Tennessee business has been taken hostage, but the attackers aren't wielding guns or weapons.

Instead they've taken over the business's social media accounts, which is how Nashville's Vintage Honey Shop owners reach more than 30,000 customers.

At the Vintage Honey Shop you won't find any honey. Co-owners Jennifer and Melissa Gilkes are sister-in-laws and they make organic jewelry.

"We call the necklaces our little honeys," laughed Melissa, while wrapping a necklace in a gift package, "so we send out lots of sweet honeys to mamas."

The necklaces are wood wrapped in cloth of different colors, meant to be indestructible for moms with curious babies.

"Their babies can teeth on them, they're safe, they're washable it's not gonna break," Jennifer said.

The two have spent years building the Vintage Honey Shop brand. Facebook is where they market all their necklaces.

"It's how we send out our Facebook ads, how we communicate with our fans," Jennifer said.

But Monday everything started to go wrong. Their online business spun out of cyber control.

"It's really scary," said Melissa.

Hackers got access to their Facebook page and website, which shared a password. A quick call to the site provider got the website back before any customers were put at risk.

But the Facebook page was much trickier. Jennifer read a threatening message sent to her from the people responsible.

"If you want to get your Facebook page back you have to pay a little bit. You have 24 hours to tell us if you want your business back," she read.

The ransom was sent through Facebook message and email.

They filed complaints with Facebook but those reports have gotten them only a standard "auto reply." Meantime the hackers are posting as the company owners, using old pictures and making up phony promotions. After two days they even switched to flood the page with vulgar, pornographic posts.

"It's just absolutely devastating," Jennifer said.

The Gilkes filed an FBI report but are otherwise at a loss for what to do. All they know is they won't give in and pay because they think it will encourage the hackers to target other businesses.

"They're targeting a small mom business, a small shop where they're asking for money," Melissa said, "I mean how much do they think they're gonna get from us?"

They just hope Facebook comes through to kick the hackers out, so they can get back to making and selling jewelry for moms in time for their biggest season: Mother's Day.

Reporter Rebecca Schleicher spoke with the FBI, the state Department of Commerce and Insurance and Facebook to see which avenue would help them the fastest.

Wednesday night a Facebook spokesperson responded, saying she will get their page back to them. That Facebook spokesperson says one of the Gilkes' private Facebook profiles was compromised through email, which allowed the hackers to access the business's page.

Facebook has provided a list of tips to protect your business page.