NBC 5 Responds

Suburban consumers targeted in Taylor Swift ticket scam on Facebook

Two victims shared their story with NBC 5 Responds

NBC Universal, Inc.

For years, dozens of people have reached out to our NBC Responds teams across the country, saying their social media accounts have been compromised.

The victims said they have reported the problem to Facebook, but there’s no way to get their accounts back. Now, a new twist that has an Algonquin woman fearing for her own physical safety.

Susan Balmer told NBC 5 Responds she hasn’t used Facebook much since she was hacked about 10 months ago.

Balmer said she reported the hack to Facebook. When the company didn’t help her get back into her old account, she created a new one and moved on, until this past April

“It was like 11:00 at night when a friend of mine texted me and said, 'Hey Sue, I think you put the Taylor Swift tickets posted in the wrong marketplace group,' and I read it and I'm like, 'what are you talking about?,'” Balmer told NBC Chicago.

Whoever had control of Balmer’s old Facebook account posed as Balmer, and posted ads for Taylor Swift tickets in local Facebook groups.

Even though Balmer reported the posts as fraudulent, they continued to pop up.

A few weeks later, the scam spilled over from the virtual world to Susan’s doorstep.

“I think it was a Sunday afternoon, and my husband and I were in the family room and there was a knock on the door,” Balmer said.

She answered the door and was met by a stranger, who stared back at her.

That stranger was Erica Freund.

“I thought maybe it would scare her if I was at the front door. Like, 'Hey, can I have a ticket, please?,'” Freund said.

Freund had responded to the Facebook ad posted by Balmer’s imposter, and used a payment app to send $1,000 to two Taylor Swift tickets, hoping to take her daughter to the concert.

Freund said she and the seller—who she believed was Balmer—agreed on a public place to meet so she could collect the tickets, and decided on an IHOP parking lot in Crystal Lake.

According to Freund, nobody ever showed up at the meeting spot, and she decided to search the seller's name on Google.

“So I just thought, well, I'm going to look her address up online and see if I find it, and it came up on Google and I was like, 'Well maybe I could just go over there and talk to her,'” Freund said.

When the women realized what happened, they reported the fraud to the Village of Algonquin Police Department, Facebook and Freund’s bank.

“Basically, they all told me, 'You got scammed and too bad,'” Freund said.

According to Balmer, she never received a response from Facebook and the hacker is still posting about fake Taylor Swift concert tickets.

NBC 5 Responds contacted Facebook multiple times asking if it could take down Balmer’s compromised page. The social media company never responded to our emails.

We also got in touch with Freund’s bank, Chase, which previously closed her fraud report without helping her.

After Chase heard from NBC 5 Responds, it reopened the case, and refunded her $1,000. Chase Bank told NBC Chicago, in part, “Luckily, we were able to recover the funds from the receiving bank, which is very rare.”

How to prevent a social media hack

According to the Cybersecurity Lab at Yale University, there are a few ways to prevent a social media hack.

  • Use strong passwords and chose a different password for each of your accounts.
  • Change your passwords if you’ve been part of a data breach.
  • Use two-factor authentication.
  • And make sure the contacts you list for your second form of identification, like your phone number and email, are current.
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