(The following column originally appeared in the Fresh Ink blog on March 31, 2014)
I did not send you a friend request on Facebook, not that I don’t like you.
I did not win $90,000, not that I’d be averse to that.
And I did not realize how impossible it would be to let Facebook know my account had been compromised.
While I was sitting in a corporate meeting of editors recently wondering when the afternoon coffee and cookies would be wheeled in, someone somewhere created a faux Barbara Lombardo Facebook page and invited my Facebook friends and email contact people to be my friend. Some also received exciting but unfortunately false news about me winning $90,000.
The responses varied from curious (“Hey, sister, did you send out a friend request? We’re already friends”), to concerned (“I got a weird message from you that didn’t sound like you”), to creeped out (“Ugh, the boss asked to friend me”).
So, I changed what I hope are all of my passwords for email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Tout, Storify, Pinterest and Instagram. I’ve run out of places of birth; favorite teams, movie stars and athletes; significant dates; lucky numbers; pets, dead or alive; street names and special cities; and schools, workplaces and organizations. I had to start a paper folder called “P*******S — DO NOT LOOK IN HERE.”
Next came notifying Facebook.
Facebook.com has a lovely and deceptively simple list of ways to report something — none of which involve ever reaching a human being. No choice fit the problem at hand.
After a few hundred thousand clicks, I found “How do I report a fake account that’s pretending to be me,” but the fix required being on the fake timeline, which I could not find. Finally, I enlisted the help of someone less than half my age, Community Engagement Editor Aubree Kammler, and watched with perverse satisfaction as she hit as many dead ends as I had — although she eventually found a place to file a grievance. She typed in a description of the problem and sent it to wherever in Facebookland complaints go to die.
We never did get any coffee or cookies at the editors’ meeting. But, on the bright side, that night and all the next day, I received welcome emails and phone calls from people I hadn’t been in touch with for way too long, all spurred by the friend request and bogus prize money. “How was your trip to Nigeria?” wrote former Saratogian reporter Jim Kinney. “The prince sounded nice on the phone.”