Samantha’s Story: Hacked at 17

I still remember how excited I was when I got my parent’s permission to start my own Facebook account – it was all I wanted for my fifteenth birthday. Everyone in the world seemed to be on Facebook except for me and I couldn’t wait to post pictures, share my thoughts, and add all of my friends. Finally, at the start of high school, my mom allowed me to use her email address to make my very own profile! After every football game or homecoming dance I would rush to share the pictures I had taken and see if anyone had posted any pictures with me. I loved reading the comments from my friends, quickly replying to each one. And then I got hacked. 

I didn’t understand what happened at first. I tried to log in to my Facebook account with my email and password, but I got an error. I tried again and again but no luck – someone had changed my password and now had control of my profile. All of a sudden I realized that all of my pictures and comments, the ones I had so much fun sharing, were in a stranger’s hands. I no longer had access to look at my old posts and I couldn’t make any new ones. I was locked out of my own life.

Not only could the hacker see everything that I had posted, but they could also read all the private messages I sent to friends – including messages to my boyfriend. It was hard not to panic thinking about what this person might do with access to my account. They could steal all of my pictures, see my personal information, even send out messages that looked like they came from me. My parents helped me write to Facebook to get the account taken down and I reported the user to the support team but nothing worked. The profile I spent two years filling with my favorite memories was out of my control. I had to start all over, but this time around I was not excited to be creating a brand new account. Seven years later, the fake account was still live.

I’m now twenty-three years old. I graduated high school, graduated college, and got my first full-time job all while this fake account was following me. I tried to ignore the fact that there was someone else out there using my name and my pictures, but it was always in the back of my mind. Who might it be? What might they do? It really scared me because I thought that I had done everything I could to be safe online. I made my profile private and only accepted friend requests from people that I knew and trusted, yet my account got stolen. I still follow those guidelines for online safety, but I also understand that hackers get better at what they do every day and it’s possible that it could happen to me again. Getting hacked can happen to anyone.


After I got hacked I stopped posting as much as I did when I opened my original account. I lost so much trust in my online security that I didn’t get excited to share on my Facebook anymore. I wish I would have posted more pictures throughout my time at college for my family to keep up with my activities, but I didn’t feel safe. I also have to keep a close eye on my bank accounts because the person that got into my Facebook account would have been able to find out a lot of important information that could make my identity, even offline, vulnerable. As I continue to deal with the effects of online identity theft on my life, I am glad that I am able to contribute my story to the effort of FaceChex and Myana Welch to raise awareness of the issue and urge people to protect themselves online. I will be sharing more of the details of how I got hacked and how I recovered the account in the upcoming online safety book, Hacked at 17. The Kickstarter for this book was started with the hope to show teens the importance of protecting yourself online with real-life stories, along with actionable tips for how to stay safe. Please consider ordering a book to share with your loved ones or your local library to prevent others from becoming victims of online identity theft. 

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