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41 state AGs press Meta on ‘dramatic increase’ in account lockouts, takeovers

A group of 41 state attorneys general are demanding that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, provide support for users because there has been a “dramatic increase” in accounts on its platforms being locked and taken over.

The letter, addressed to Meta’s chief legal officer, Jennifer Newstead, requested immediate action to address the increase in users who are experiencing “takeovers and lockouts” on Facebook and Instagram.

The group said its offices have experienced a spike in complaints concerning takeovers in recent years that is “alarming for our constituents but also a substantial drain on our office resources.”

“Account takeovers are not a new phenomenon. This issue affects all social media platforms and other online accounts as well,” it acknowledged. “However, the frequency and persistence of account takeovers on Meta-owned platforms puts it in a league of its own.”

In the event of an account takeover, threat actors will compromise a user’s account and change the passwords so the owner can’t access it. Once the account has been breached, personal information and private messages can be accessed, and the actors can post publicly and scam the users’ contacts, the letter said.

“Customers are reporting their utter panic when they first realize they have been effectively locked out of their accounts. Users spend years building their personal and professional lives on your platforms, posting intimate thoughts, and sharing personal details, locations, and photos of family and friends,” the attorneys general wrote. “To have it taken away from them through no fault of their own can be traumatizing.”

The group argued there is an alarming and significant risk of financial harm for the account owner and other users on the platform because many people use Facebook as a business hub or use Facebook Marketplace for transactions.

Constituents have complained that the threat actors have charged thousands of dollars to credit cards that are stored within the platform, according to the letter. The attorneys general added that they have received reports that actors buy advertisements on Meta’s platforms that violate terms and lead to the accounts being banned.

The letter noted that the New York Attorney General’s office received 73 complaints on the issue in 2019, which “rose more than tenfold” to 783 complaints by the end of 2023.

“Such statistics are extremely troubling. The substantial increase in complaints tells us that threat actors are winning the war and running rampant on Meta,” the group wrote.

They requested that the company increase its investment in account takeover mitigation tactics and respond to affected users.

The Hill has reached out to Meta for comment on the letter.

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